I listened to the most recent edition of the “That’s So Cincinnati” podcast while working out this week.  It featured Julie Isphording, Cincinnati’s former Olympic Marathoner, who has been the executive director of the Thanksgiving 10k run for the last several years.  In the podcast, she described herself as a “steward” of the race.  I love that term. It means while she doesn’t own the race, she is charged with making sure it runs successfully.  At some point, just as Julie took on the role, she’ll hand it to someone else who will take on the responsibility.

In the same way, the Hamilton County Commissioners are stewards.  They do not own county property, but they are charged with maintaining the operations of the county for the owners – the taxpayers.  I wrote a guest column for the Cincinnati Enquirer this week about the recent naming rights deal between the Cincinnati Bengals and Paycor and how it represents a failure of stewardship.

It seems that when the County negotiated the lease for what was then called Paul Brown Stadium, it agreed to a provision giving the County 30% of the net revenue from any naming rights deal the Bengals negotiated, over a certain threshold amount.  But the lease contains no requirement that the Bengals provide the County with a copy of the naming rights deal. This means that there is no way for the County and more importantly for the taxpayers to assess the merits of the deal.  We don’t know how much the Bengals got for the naming rights, nor do we know how the Bengals arrived at the “net revenue.”  All we know is that, based on the representation of a local accounting firm, the naming rights deal didn’t result in net revenues above the threshold amount, so the County gets $0.

This isn’t a criticism of the Bengals, Paycor or the naming rights deal.  For all I know, the Bengals secured a great deal. But that’s just it – I don’t know.  The County failed as a steward on this.  Let’s hope it does better when it comes time to negotiate a new lease in 2026.