The city of Cincinnati and opponents of the parking plan met in court today to debate whether laws passed with emergency clauses are subject to referendum — a crucial legal issue as the city attempts to speed ahead with plans to lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the deficit and foster economic development.
After hearing extensive legal arguments
from both sides, Judge Robert Winkler, who presided over the hearings, said
a decision is unlikely today.
Curt Hartman, who represented opponents of the parking plan, argued the city charter’s definition of emergency clauses is ambiguous, and legal precedent supports siding with voters’ right to referendum when there is ambiguity.
Terry Nestor, who represented the city, said legal
precedent requires the city to defer to state law as long as state law
is not contradicted in the city charter.
Cincinnati’s city charter does not specify whether emergency legislation is subject to referendum, but state law explicitly says emergency laws are not subject to referendum.
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, previously told CityBeat that if the parking plan is held up for too long in legal battles, the city will have to carry out spending cuts before July to balance the budget in time for the 2014 fiscal year.
Emergency clauses remove a 30-day waiting period on approved legislation, and the city claims they also remove the possibility of referendum.
City Council approved the parking plan in a 5-4 vote on March 6 before attaching an emergency clause to the law in a 6-3 vote.
Opponents of the parking plan say they’re concerned the plan will cede too much control over the city’s parking meters, which they say could lead to skyrocketing parking rates.
The city says rates are set at 3 percent or inflation, but the rate can change with a unanimous vote from a special committee, approval from the city manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. The special committee would comprise of four people appointed by the Port Authority and one appointed by the city manager.
The city is pursuing the parking plan to help balance the city’s deficit for the next two fiscal years and enable economic development projects (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).