Monday, December 1, 2008

Cincinnati visit

I initially planned on adding my narrative about my weekend visit to Cincinnati to my blog but ultimately decided it was family stuff that doesn’t belong in a public or semi-public forum. Here’s the short version: the National Freedom Museum is closed on days the Bengals play at home; and the Taft Museum is fantastic. And visiting family out of town is a great way to spend a holiday weekend.

At the risk of offending government employees, I’m going to revisit my taxation point now that I’ve visited Cincinnati. Here, there’s a budget crisis in Chicago, in Cook County, and in Springfield every time one of those government entities needs to pass its budget. There’s always a deficit and always controversy about how to bridge that gap—what services to cut, which taxes to raise and by how much. Maybe that happens in Cincinnati, in Hamilton County, and in Columbus. But one senses when visiting Cincinnati that the intense pressure to suck revenue from residents and visitors just isn’t the same. The sales tax rate in Cincinnati and surrounding Hamilton County is the same: just 6.5%. My family was astounded when I told them the tax rate here is 10% in Cook County, 10.25% in Chicago, plus an extra 1% for downtown restaurants. Yes, there is a city income tax surcharge in Cincinnati. But it wouldn’t make up a four-point sales tax difference. I had heard Cincinnati speed limits were strictly enforced, but I never saw cops or meter maids. I found a free, legal street parking spot before kickoff that was reasonable walking distance from the Bengals’ stadium—unthinkable for the Bears and the Chicago Park District.

One of my cousins—not the cousins I visited—belongs to a group called “You Know You’re From Cincinnati if….” The last point says it’s a great place to live. It doesn’t rank with Chicago in population; not only is it not Top 5, it’s not even Top 50 anymore. (63rd and falling.) It’s probably not considered a world-class city and is not a must-see for international tourists. Its airport’s airfares are terribly expensive because it’s controlled by one airline. The nearest NHL team is in Columbus. The nearest NBA team is in Indianapolis—both cities about 115 mi. away. But crime isn’t a major problem that sends the mayor into temper tantrums. It’s okay to pack heat. Its residents tend to be politically conservative (G-d forbid, I know). Traffic isn’t such a problem except for the bridges to and from Kentucky at certain times of day. Sure, bright lights/big city has a strong appeal. So does a city of Cincinnati’s size.

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