A new Hamilton County jail. A renovated Cincinnati Music Hall. A refurbished Cincinnati Museum Center. Re-doing the century-old buildings at Cincinnati's Zoo. A streetcar to Clifton. Preschools for every child. Better police and fire protection. Fixing the long-neglected Cincinnati pension. Lavish facilities at Ohio's Colleges and Universities. A new public arena for Cincinnati. Improved technical and vocational educational facilities and programs at Cincinnati State.
They all sound nice, really nice, and who would not want all of these things? Except, of course, for the teeny little problem of who is going to pay for the long list of long-neglected community needs and wants, and how much are they all going to cost.
Today's Enquirer editorial by Julie Zimmerman touches on a topic near and dear to COAST, which is that as a community we can do many things, and many new things, but we can't do everything. We must, as a community, set priorities. The Enquirer and Ms. Zimmerman recognize this reality, and we appreciate that start of this important community discussion.
We have a different idea about those priorities than Ms. Zimmerman and the Enquirer Editorial Board, and we suspect almost every citizen would place these things in a different order. But that's a discussion for a different day.
We believe that the start of the discussion is whether Cincinnati-area families can afford a bigger and bigger share of their hard-earned monies going to fund governmental projects, versus paying for their own homes, their own food and transportation, their own kids' education and their own retirement. One of the many things our community "dreamers" miss is the soaring home foreclosure rate -- in part as a result of the burden of ever-rising property taxes. COAST insists that in setting community priorities the overall burden on Cincinnati-area families must be factored in.
While COAST's detractors dislike us asking the hard questions, the important debates we have forced in this community have allowed for uncomfortable, yet necessary, discussion of our community priorities for the spending of precious tax dollars -- and more importantly how large that burden should be overall. And in doing so we have forced the inclusion of the one group that back-room dealers want to leave out of the discussion -- the taxpayers, the voters, the people of this fine community. The "little people" who "pay the taxes" as uber-wealthy Leona Helmsley once quipped.
The reality is that the new economy and the internet have disrupted the historic priority-setting structures that directed decisions in this community for decades if not centuries. The types of mature business-minded leaders who built this town -- with a concern for the common man threaded in there -- no longer exist. Most decisions in our community are made by those on the public dole, or who benefit from the system that is in place -- contractors, bankers, lawyers, lobbyists, and other assorted hangers-on. Many pursue their own self-interest with little-to-no regard given to setting overall priorities, or a limit on the burden to be foisted on the common man.
COAST's entrance nearly fifteen years ago into the leadership void in our community, its embrace of new coalitions (e.g., "WeDemandAVote.Com" and the coalition that defeated the parking plot) and use of emerging technology (i.e., our blog, e-mail system and use of Twitter and Facebook) to help set these priorities is a part of re-establishing a system of setting community priorities.
The re-entrance of the opinion leader in Cincinnati -- the Enquirer -- into this great community debate is refreshing, as provoking thought and leading discussion of the direction Cincinnati going forward.
We welcome them to the discussion once again.