Saturday, April 21, 2012

More on the rejected Arts Sales Tax Hike

We have previously reported on the proposed Sales Tax increase for the "arts" that was being floated by some local civic leaders. Most recently, we covered the announcement that the Hamilton County Commissioners quickly rejected this tax, and also prohibited the County Administrator from directing any county resources towards this proposal.

Since then, I have acquired the email communications of the Commissioners discussing this topic. Key highlights:

- Commission President Greg Hartmann states his opposition to an arts Sales Tax hike
- Hartmann opposes a property tax increase to "fully finance" the Union Terminal renovation. He lays out other funding options that must be pursued.
- Hartmann believes that the County Administrator should not expend county resources advocating for proposed cultural preservation efforts, and must remain focused on managing the budget and delivering core county services
- Monzel concurred with Hartmann's thoughts
- Portune was willing be slightly more lenient. He supports allowing the Administrator to share guidance and expertise, but isn't comfortable with anything more than that.

Below is a copy of each email from the three Commissioners:

On Apr 17, 2012, at 11:24 AM, "Hartmann, Greg" wrote:

Chris and Todd:

As discussion about the financial needs of Union Terminal advances, and seems to be expanding to include other cultural facilities, I believe it is necessary to clearly communicate my position on this issue and provide my recommendation on the role of County Administration in these evolving discussions moving forward.

First, I want to be clear that I do not support a sales tax to fix the Museum Center or any additional cultural facilities. As one of our primary sources of revenue as a County, I believe the responsibility granted to County Commissioners through our sales tax authority should be guarded and preserved for only our highest and most urgent revenue needs. I submit that we have public safety needs more urgently suitable for consideration related to our sales tax authority before we ever discuss cultural arts facility rehabilitation wish lists.

As stated previously, I also do not support a property tax as the vehicle to fully finance Union Terminal facility improvements. I have repeatedly communicated my position for the Museum Center to, first, pursue and implement a more aggressive business model, more robust and sophisticated private fundraising effort, recruit private developer financial support as a beneficiary of improvements planned surrounding the Museum and secure capital contributions from the City of Cincinnati, the owner of the facility.

I believe discussions regarding our cultural facilities are now at a point that requires the Board to address whether County Administration should be involved in any further advisory or technical support role. I recommend that no further County resources be expended in association with cultural facility preservation efforts as these discussions advance. The focus of the County in these tough times must specifically be on our core functions and managing our budget.

I would like your feedback on this recommendation and any thoughts you would like to share on this subject.


From: Monzel, Chris
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 4:23 PM
To: Hartmann, Greg
Cc: Portune, Todd; Sigman, Christian
Subject: Re: Cultural Facility Taxation Efforts

I concur.


From: Portune, Todd
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 6:09 PM
To: Monzel, Chris; Hartmann, Greg
Cc: Sigman, Christian
Subject: RE: Cultural Facility Taxation Efforts


Thank you for your request for our input into these important matters.

As I understand what Christian has been asked to do, it should not take up an extraordinary amount of his time or effort. I have no objection to Christian offering his occasional guidance on topic or sharing his own vast array of knowledge and expertise on such matters so long as his ever-increasing duties and responsibilities to core county functions are not compromised. In addition, the policy Resolution we adopted some years ago calls upon the county to provide a measure of support around these kinds of capital discussions.

Accordingly, I do not support taking steps that work to prohibit his involvement completely. If he can offer technical support and guidance that works to keep the Museum Center group on target and within the Board’s general policy framework I am comfortable with his providing such a limited role. Anything more goes beyond my level of comfort.



  1. Thanks! Good info. I like that you posted the emails in their entirety to let us see for ourselves exactly what the Commissioners are saying.

    They are right on this issue. We don't need a Sales Tax increase for the "arts", and County resources have to be directed to its most important functions.

  2. "I concur."

    Monzel puts about as much thought into being a County Commissioner as he did as a city councilmember: Let others (COAST, outspoken conservatives like Ghiz & Hartmann) do the speaking and define policy, and smiply adopt their work.

    What a joke.

  3. I have more of a problem with politicians who think every question requires a long-winded answer. If someone else covers the topic properly, I'd rather the next guy along simply state that instead of take 5 paragraphs to make a point that only requires 1 sentence.

  4. Portune is a windbagApril 22, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    Yeah, exactly what we need - another Todd Portune-type politician who can't get enough of the sound of his own voice. Short, simple, concise - how ALL politicians should keep it.


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