suppose it could have been worse. The St. Louis region was torn apart in the final days of summer in a media-fueled frenzy sparked by a police officer’s gun and a dead black teen. Been there, done that, Cincinnati (circa 2001).

Instead, the Cincinnati region was fractured and feuding this summer not by civil unrest, but by a well-intended proposal to raise our sales tax by .25 cents to “Save our Icons”—Union Terminal and Music Hall.

The Cultural Facilities Task Force was chaired by former P&G CEO Bob McDonald (now a cabinet member in D.C.), included executives from all the town’s big corporate stakeholders, was salted with representatives of organized labor and the African-American community and peppered by expert architects and financiers.

Oozing competence, clout and credibility, the Task Force rolled out a detailed plan to renovate both icons with a combination of tax revenues, $40 million in corporate and foundation pledges, tax credits and state and federal grants. The tax increase would be only $23/year for the average resident, with more coming from visitors and commuters. Jobs would be created. The community could come together to save two fading beauties for new generations.

The Enquirer swooned. The usually anti-tax Chamber of Commerce climbed on board. The voters could decide whether to tax themselves to do something big in November. The County Commission only had to put it on the ballot.

Could this be one of those rare moments when our town joined hands to do something big?

Uhh, No.

In Hamilton County, the more establishment you are, the less traction you get with local Tea Partiers. No sooner had the Task Force’s plan been presented, the scolds at COAST (Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes) made clear that this was another profligate scheme from those wicked city folks.

The COAST battle cry was that The City owns both buildings. Only city residents should bear the burden of fixing them up, even though folks from Anderson or Indian Hill are free to take their cute kids to the Museum Center on a cold Saturday, or enjoy Carmen on a summer’s evening.

Despite well-orchestrated public hearings crowded with “‘Iconheads” and Union Terminal cut-outs, Commissioners Hartmann and Monzel quickly wilted before their raging base.

The Commissioners could have said, “We don’t like this plan, but we’ll let voters make the call,” or, “The voters aren’t smart enough to figure this out,” and kept the plan off the ballot.

Instead, Music Hall was kicked to the curb. But the Commission approved the same .25 cent tax for a five-year term rather than 10, earmarked only for Union Terminal.

The bet was that most voters had no particular affinity for Music Hall. The Symphony didn’t do its cause any favor at Luminocity, scheduled in the midst of the Icon brouhaha, when it created what resembled a chain linked fenced internment camp at Washington Park, to separate its patrons and VIPs from the un-“free” ticketed riff-raff.

But the great Icon compromise, approved at the deadline by Commissioners Hartmann and Monzel without any apparent vetting, had big holes: taxpayers will be paying the same increased sales tax to fix up only one Icon. Donor pledges will be lost. And it was unclear whether financing could be obtained.

Mayor Cranley, who had publicly feuded with Commissioner Hartmann about demands for more City money in the plan, found common cause with his allies at COAST, calling what was put on the ballot “half-cocked and half-baked.” The Mayor seemed to urge a “No” vote, even before the Museum Center board decided whether or not to take the money and run. None of that bodes well for a plan that started out with so much consensus.

So much for coming together to do big things, Cincinnati.

Maybe next year. There’s always the Brent Spence Bridge!

Don Mooney is a partner at the Cincinnati office of Ulmer & Berne LLC, and is active in local politics.