WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
March 28th, 2013 By German Lopez | News | Posted In: News, Parking, Budget

City Officials Warn of Parking Ruling's Consequences

City manager says he's already made preparations for layoff notices

city hallCincinnati City Hall - Photo: Greg Hume

Speaking at a press conference today, city officials did not mask their contempt for the ruling that put the parking plan on hold earlier in the day, saying it will force the city to make cuts and layoffs to balance the 2014 budget and potentially eliminate the passage of expedited legislation.

The press conference was in response to a ruling from Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler, which opened the parking plan to referendum and ordered a permanent injunction on the plan pending any referendum effort. City Solicitor John Curp said the city is appealing the ruling.

Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. explained the city will now have to close a $25.8 million shortfall in the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1.

Dohoney said he has already ordered city departments to begin preparations for Plan B, which will lay off 344 employees, including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, to balance projected deficits.

“Part of the irony is we're swearing in a recruit class tomorrow,” he said, then shook his head. “Too bad.”

In addition to meeting the July 1 budget deadline, the city has to expedite some layoff notices to meet union contracts, which typically require a notice 30 days in advance.

Curp said the ruling also poses significant legal challenges that will hinder the city’s ability to expedite legislation with emergency clauses. Emergency clauses are often used by City Council to remove a 30-day waiting period on passed laws, and the city argues they also remove the ability to referendum.

The layoffs could be retroactively pulled back if the city wins in appeals courts or if the referendum effort fails to gather enough petitions.

“Don't sign the petition,” Mallory said. “If you sign a petition, you're laying off a cop or firefighter.”

Dohoney said the delays make the city look sluggish — an image that he says the city has been trying to overcome.

“One of the criticisms I’ve gotten is that this city takes too long to get deals done,” he said. “This complicates that.”

City Council approved the parking plan to lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the budget for the next two fiscal years and fund development projects around the city, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).

Opponents of the plan argued that there were alternatives that did not involve laying off cops or firefighters. Councilman Chris Seelbach proposed Plan S, which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenue to help balance the deficit, cut $5 million based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting process and put two charter amendments on the ballot that, if approved, would include up to a $10-per-month trash fee and increase the city's admissions tax by 2 percent.

At the press conference, Mallory called the alternatives “unworkable.” He said Plan S in particular does not work because it relies on a ballot initiative that would have to be voted on in November. “We don’t have until November,” he said.

Opponents say they’re concerned the parking plan will cede too much control over the city’s parking meters, which they say will lead to a spike in parking rates.

The city says rate increases are initially capped at 3 percent or inflation — whichever is higher — but the rates 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 be made up of four people appointed by the Port Authority and one appointed by the city manager.

In the legal proceedings, the two sides are arguing whether emergency clauses eliminate the ability to hold a referendum on legislation. Opponents of the parking plan, headed by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), say the city charter is ambiguous with its definition of emergency clauses, and legal precedent demands courts side with voters’ right to referendum when there’s ambiguity.

Supporters of the parking plan cite state law, which says emergency legislation is not subject to referendum. Terry Nestor, who represented the city in the court hearings, said legal precedent requires the city to defer to state law as long as state law is not contradicted in the city charter.

Winkler sided with opponents of the parking plan in his decision. He wrote in his ruling, “If the people of Cincinnati had intended to exempt emergency legislation from their referendum powers, they could have done so when adopting Article II, Section 3 of the City Charter.”

Mallory says the city is not disputing voters’ right to referendum in a general sense; instead, he says the city needs to expedite the budget process to balance the budget before fiscal year 2014.

City officials say the parking plan is necessary largely because of Gov. John Kasichs local government funding cuts, which Dohoney previously said cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in annual revenues (Enemy of the State, issue of March 20). Opponents argue Cincinnati had structurally imbalanced budgets years before Kasich took office, but the city says Kasichs policies have made the situation much worse.

The parking plan is one of the few issues dividing Democratic mayoral candidates John Cranley and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. Cranley opposes the plan, while Qualls supports it.

 
 
03.28.2013 at 03:19 Reply

The guy running this referendum is none other than Chris Finney. Chris Finney does not even live in the city, he lives in Anderson Township, and will not have to face the repercussions of this decision.

We can't continue to allow outsiders control of our city, or else all progress will come to a halt. Whats good for the suburbs isn't always good for city residents. 35 people, out of 300,000 city residents, spoke out against this, which is in no way a majority. That is a tired argument.

PG Sittenfeld, the suburbs favorite councilman, is on 700wlw right now pandering to folks in Mason and West Chester. This same councilman has designs on running for county government and is making his decisions on city council with this in mind. PG is not good for the city.

Whether you like this plan to lease the parking system or not, think about this- if Chris Finney needs to call 911 for some reason, the cops and firefighters will be at his house in minutes. After the city is forced to make cuts to safety, how long will it take for them to arrive at YOUR house?

 

 
 
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