Dear Columbus--Better Not Pout
By John K. Hartman
Published: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 9:59 PM EST
Dear Columbus (with apologies to J. Fred Coots and Henry Gillespie’s 1934 ode to
“You better not pout, you better not cry, a casino is coming to town.”
The most visible civic leaders of Columbus continue their crusade against the
casino in the Arena District downtown six weeks after the election.
They rebel against the 9 million residents of Ohio outside the Columbus
metropolitan area for imposing the casino and its location on the Capital City.
They use as rationale that Columbus residents opposed the casino 55 to 45
percent and that the rest of the metro area was against it by a few percentage
They ignore, as The Other Paper’s Steph Greegor reported last week, that
many Columbus area precincts and neighborhoods voted “for” the casinos.
They act as if the Columbus vicinity is a “city-state,” as Cincinnati legislator
Bill Seitz puts it, that does not have to listen to the 53 percent
majority of its fellow Ohioans.
The Columbus insiders have persuaded statewide officeholders and potential
candidates to take up their crusade. City leaders are considering various means
to block the casino’s construction. Local lawmakers are readying legislation to
cause another statewide vote to re-amend the Ohio Constitution and remove the
Columbus casino, leaving ones in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo, where
regional voters said “yes.”
The Columbus leaders might want to consider sentiments in the rest of the state
before putting the withdrawal amendment on the statewide ballot.
Having moved to the Columbus area (Powell in southern Delaware County) a year
ago, I offer my perspective having lived 34 years in the Toledo metropolitan
area (Bowling Green) and 29 years in the Cleveland metropolitan area (Ashland).
Residents of the “Other Ohio,” as John Robinson Block of the Toledo Blade
once dubbed the 9 million Ohioans outside central Ohio, have a conflicted
viewpoint toward Columbus.
On one hand, the Other Ohioans like Columbus for its signature state university,
entertainment and cultural attractions, and quality of life. Its diverse economy
that holds up well in difficulty economic times is respected, too.
On the other hand, Other Ohioans know that they are helping to finance
Columbus’s good fortune through a generous subsidy to Ohio State University and
through the tax dollars that go to finance the state government headquartered
I used to joke that when I drove by myself from Bowling Green to Columbus, I was
never alone because the “tax dollars” were traveling down U.S. 23 with me.
The Other Ohio knows that the Columbus area is faring better during this Great
Recession than the rest of the state. Casinos were sold to the rest of the state
as creators of jobs and economic activity. Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo – in
far worse economic shape than Columbus – bought the argument.
I predict that the Other Ohio would see Columbus seeking a constitutional
amendment to opt out of a casino as a spoiled child wanting even better
treatment than the deprived children in the rest of the state. I foresee a
thundering “no” from the rest of the state.
This might set in motion other actions by the Other Ohio aimed at curbing
Columbus’s economic benefits, hardly a risk civic leaders can afford to take.
I believe that the rest of the state already sees through the argument that a
casino will harm the “family friendly” atmosphere of the Arena District.
Professional hockey is full of fights and brutality, hardly suitable for
families. The raunchier rock ‘n’ roll acts at Nationwide Arena fail the family
test as well. Did I mention lots of alcohol-serving bars and R-rated movies in
A big, diverse city like Columbus can handle a casino/entertainment venue in the
Better not pout.
There is an even bigger reason for Columbus to green light the casino. In my
(John K. Hartman is a professor of journalism at Central Michigan University
and the Al-Jazirah newspaper chair of international journalism at King Saud