City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on March 4 approved a plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port Authority in a 4-3 vote, but part of the plan was separated from the budget, leaving it open to referendum.
The plan will require five votes in a final City Council vote scheduled for March 6.
The plan would lease the city’s parking assets to fund development projects, including a 30-story tower and a downtown grocery store, and balance the deficit for the next two years.
Council members Roxanne Qualls, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young voted for the plan, and council members Chris Seelbach, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voted against it.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld was absent, and Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan abstained, although she said she could vote yes if she sees details about how the city will curb its long-term budget problems.
Before the vote, several City Council members said the parking plan would not solve Cincinnati’s structural deficit problems, but City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the plan would help reduce the deficit by generating recurring revenues through economic growth and development. Still, Dohoney admitted the plan would not solve all the city’s budget woes. Even with the parking plan, the city projects a $10 million deficit in 2014, $15.5 million deficit in 2015 and $20 million deficit in 2016.
Before the final committee vote, Smitherman successfully motioned to separate part of the plan from the budget, which opens the plan to referendum. The motion was in response to City Solicitor John Curp, who said appropriation ordinances, or ordinances that are essentially budgets, aren’t subject to referendum, according to state law.