Judge sets hearing for next week on Cincinnati parking lease

Mar 8, 2013

A Hamilton County Judge will hear arguments next Friday to decide whether to issue a permanent injunction preventing Cincinnati from moving forward with a parking lease Council approved Wednesday.  

Judge Robert Winkler denied a city motion Friday to dissolve a temporary restraining order he issued just minutes after the council vote.  

Attorney Curt Hartman, representing the citizens who filed the complaint, said there are a couple issues for the judge to decide.

“Concerning the emergency legislation which deprived the people the right to vote on this issue,” Hartman said.  “As well as other issues regarding other aspects of the city charter that we don’t believe were complied with.”

Hartman and city lawyers started the day at the Federal Courthouse.  The city wanted U-S District Judge Michael Barrett to dismiss the case.  

But before the hearing, the plaintiffs dropped the only federal issue in their lawsuit and Barrett later issued an order sending the case back to Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.  

Judge Barrett did bring a little humor to the court hearing.  He said he was late because “he was trying to find a parking space.”  

City Solicitor John Curp said dropping the federal count was important.  Curp said the only issue left in the plaintiffs' case against the city is a challenge to the emergency clauses that were included in the ordinances.

“We hope there will be finality from the judge,” Curp said.  “I would expect either side if they lose to appeal the decision, and we will proceed from there.  Every day of delay is one where city services and city employees jobs are at risk.”

Meanwhile, attorney Chris Finney who represents the citizens said his clients will continue with efforts to get the parking lease on the ballot.

“The point of the litigation is to allow the referendum to go forward and to give the people a vote in November,” Finney said.  “We have hundreds of people already calling for petitions saying when can we start collecting?  We hope to have petitions printed this weekend and to be out on the streets for the warm weather this weekend.”

The city manager proposed leasing most of the parking facilities in an effort to get revenue to help stabilize the general fund budget and to launch several economic development projects to grow the city's tax base.  

The parking lease plan would provide the city with nearly $92 million by the end of June and a portion of that money would be used to balance the budget which must be in place by July 1st.    

Opponents are concerned about how quickly Council approved the lease plan and that parking rates will skyrocket once the city is no longer managing the facilities.