Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hamilton County Commissioners Must Stand and Deliver on Music Hall and Union Terminal!

Warner Bros.
My late uncle gave me a love of history, and lately I've been reading a lot of it in order to understand human behavior, politics, and decision making. On May 22, 1968, President Johnson announced his plan to transform America with the advent of "The Great Society". The plan, under the Johnson Administration, was an attempt to address--among other things--our decaying cities with a promise "to assemble the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find answers for America". Incidentally, I've read that an unsympathetic Congress--seated at the time--coupled with the tragedy of the Vietnam War, drained much of this optimism away. Consequently, "The Great Society" foundered. The parallels to the fate of Cincinnati Music Hall and Union Terminal are similar.
The "best thought and the broadest knowledge" in Cincinnati civic and business leadership was assembled  with formation of The Cultural Facilities Task Force. They worked tirelessly for 9 months studying decades of problems that confounded the City of Cincinnati regarding these landmark buildings. The plan they proposed was comprehensive in scope, and through competent and creative planning, actually solved decade-long problems.
When two Hamilton County Commissioners in Cincinnati, Ohio can wield enough power to sensor an issue that voters have every right to consider in a referendum, something is terribly flawed. It is nothing less than an insult to every voter's intelligence. Rather than embracing a well thought out plan that would have unwound decades of problems that led to the buildings being placed on the list of "The 11 Most Endangered Buildings in America" by The National Trust for Historic Preservation, political expediency has triumphed over principle. The Task Force created a solid plan that would have permanently repaired both buildings and maintained them for generations to come. 
A dinner meeting was held with newly elected Cincinnati Mayor Cranley, Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, and Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation CEO Steve Leeper. In that meeting, it is my understanding that Mayor Cranley answered  claims that the city "wasn't doing enough" to save these buildings. The Mayor countered with the City Council's pledge of $10 million to Music Hall, and another $10 million for ongoing maintenance of both buildings. Mayor Cranley left the dinner believing that all issues were addressed. It was an occasion for handshakes and goodwill. After the dinner, Greg Hartmann told The Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper that the city still "wasn't doing enough".  
In separate meetings, Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel, and Task Force Chairman Bob McDonald met with one another multiple times. In each of these meetings, the Task Force proposal to fund both landmarks was fully vetted. Had Messrs. Hartman and Monzel presented any misgivings during either of these meetings, the Task Force would have had ample opportunity to factor in their concerns to the final proposal that was created to be presented to Hamilton County voters in the November referendum.
In an 11th hour action Music Hall was struck from the renovation plans. 


Stephen Hayes said...

If only more people were aware of the peril facing this wonderful structure. More people need to read your blog!

Michael Manning said...

Hi Stephen: The series is being read from people as far away as Japan, France, England, China and Ireland. My reach is national and global in scope, and I'm gratified by this response. The future remains in question for Cincinnati and the other cities appearing on the National Trust for Preservation's Top 11 List.