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Icon Tax supporters call ballot question "worst possible outcome"

CINCINNATI (Angenette Levy) -- Members of a task force that want a sales tax hike to pay for repairs at Union Terminal and Music Hall called the ballot question approved by Hamilton County Commissioners "the worst possible outcome" Thursday.

The so-called "Monzel Plan" removed Music Hall from the proposal and cut the number of years that the tax would be in effect from 14 years to five years.
"What we really want is a comprehensive solution that addresses both buildings - Union Terminal and Music Hall - and we're standing steadfast with that. We are looking at a Plan B," said Murray Sinclaire, a member of the Cultural Facilities Task Force.

Sinclaire said the task force spent thousands of hours studying the icon tax proposal. He said the proposal devised by Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel "impulsively devised overnight." Monzel disagreed and said he studied all of the data.

"14 years with over $33 million of interest that is going to have to be paid for by the taxpayers, compared to a five-year plan that we can get in, get out and fix Union Terminal. To me it was a no-brainer," Monzel said Thursday.

Commissioner Greg Hartmann, who was the swing vote that supported Monzel's proposal, said he would ask icon tax supporters to "tone down the rhetoric."

"The worst-case scenario from their perspective would be for nothing to go on the ballot," Hartmann said Thursday.

Hartmann said Union Terminal is the top priority since it is crumbling. Meanwhile, Mayor John Cranley is also upset Music Hall was nixed.
He thought he and Hartmann had struck a deal that would have kept Music Hall in the proposal.

"If they weren't going to give the voters the chance to say 'yes' or 'no' to Bob McDonald and Procter and Gamble's plan for our region they should have said so nine months ago before these folks put in all of this time and energy and before they asked us to commit more money which we did," Cranley said.

Hartmann said he and Cranley had discussions but a deal was never reached.

"So it seems to me that they're saying right now that $170 million is not enough. And you know if that's the case we'll pull this off the ballot," Hartmann said.

Commissioners have until Monday to take the sales tax proposal off the ballot. Monzel said he does not want to do that but would discuss it if it was brought up at a special meeting.

Private donors had pledged $40 million to pay for repairs at both buildings. Task force members say those donations hinged on a deal for both buildings and may now be in jeopardy.

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