WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 

Parking Lease Facing Another Legal Challenge

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 24, 2013
A conservative organization is threatening more legal action to stop the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.   
by German Lopez 07.17.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Courts at 08:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
coast_online

Parking Lease Facing Another Legal Challenge

Conservative group claims city manager exceeded authority with changes

In a letter to the city solicitor, a conservative organization is threatening more legal action to stop the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) claims the city manager made “significant and material” changes to the lease agreement after City Council approved the deal in March. That, the letter states, exceeds the city manager’s authority.The two changes in question: First, the city changed the original June 30 deadline for issuing bonds that will finance the deal to a less specific 90-day period that will kick in once the agreement is in full effect. Second, the city added sections that allow the Port to review and potentially terminate the lease within 75 days.The changes were made after another legal challenge delayed the lease’s implementation.The letter asks City Solicitor John Curp to review the allegations and sue the city. If he doesn’t, COAST would gain the legal standing necessary under Ohio law to sue the city by itself.“The law requires that before a lawyer can sue the city and ask taxpayers to pay his fees he must send a letter of this type,” Curp explained in an email.Curp also wrote that the city will review the allegations and respond within a month.“Today’s letter is an attempt to comply with part of the legal process that would allow the authors to claim attorneys fees from taxpayers,” he wrote. “The Law Department will review the issues raised, attempt to engage the authors constructively and respond appropriately. The policy of the Law Department is to defend aggressively against claims from lawyers that seek taxpayers dollars to fund their litigation against the City of Cincinnati.”COAST is pursuing the legal challenge as a longtime critic of the parking lease. The organization supported the previous lawsuit against the lease, which an appeals court struck down. The letter comes in the middle of another controversy over a June 20 memo that the city administration kept from the public, Port Authority and City Council for three-plus weeks, until council members and media outlets enquired about it. The memo suggested the city is getting a bad deal from the lease agreement. Port and city officials argue the memo made technical errors and used outdated information.Under the parking lease, the city will receive a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual payments, according to city estimates.Supporters of the parking lease argue it’s needed to raise funds for development projects and modernize the city’s parking services. Opponents say the lease gives up too much control over the city’s parking meters, lots and garages and will hurt businesses downtown by causing meter rates and operation hours to go up.
 
 

Streetcar’s No. 1 Problem: Obstructionism

5 Comments · Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Step one: Create problems for Cincinnati’s streetcar project. Step two: Blame the problems on the streetcar project. Step three: Political profit.  

Parking Plan Remains in Limbo

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets remains up in the air after court rulings last week kept a court-mandated restraining order in place until at least March 15, when a hearing is scheduled at the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.   
by German Lopez 03.08.2013
Posted In: News, Privatization, Parking, City Council, Budget at 03:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
downtown grocery

Parking Plan Remains in Limbo

Case moved back to common pleas court, hearing set for March 15

The plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority remains up in the air today after court rulings kept a court-mandated restraining order in place until at least March 15, when a hearing is scheduled at the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. The hearing on March 15 will establish whether the lawsuit should move forward and whether the restraining order will remain until the lawsuit is resolved. The latter poses a budgetary challenge to the city; if the restraining order is kept in place and opponents gather the signatures required for a November referendum on the parking plan, the city says it will have to make cuts before July to balance the budget for fiscal year 2014, which could result in layoffs.“We’ve been very clear that, by state law, we need to have a balanced budget starting July 1, so we will need to do all things necessary at that point,” says Meg Olberding, city spokesperson.The lawsuit was originally moved to federal courts on March 7 because it included complaints regarding civil rights. Plaintiffs removed the mention of civil rights, which then prompted Judge Michael Barrett to send the lawsuit back to the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. City Council approved the parking plan in a 5-4 vote on March 6, but the plan was almost immediately held up by a temporary restraining order from Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Winkler. The restraining order is meant to provide enough time to process a lawsuit filed by Curt Hartman, an attorney who represents the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), on behalf of local activists who oppose the plan and argue it should be subject to referendum. “If there was even five seconds without a temporary restraining order in place, the city’s going to sign that lease,” Chris Finney, another attorney that represents COAST, said in a public statement after the hearing with Barrett. “At that point, the city will argue that the case has moved and that the (referendum) petitions are void.” The legal dispute is focused on City Council’s use of the emergency clause, which eliminates a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws but takes away the possibility of a referendum.  In an interview on March 7, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who voted for the parking plan, told CityBeat the dispute over emergency clauses is politically motivated: “I think it’s nothing but a political controversy that’s generated for political gain and for political purposes. Council passes many of its ordinances with emergency clauses. In fact, the other candidate for mayor himself consistently voted for emergency clauses.” The other mayoral candidate Qualls is referring to is John Cranley, a former council member who opposes the parking plan and says he will support a referendum effort. “Just because the emergency clause may be used too often doesn’t make it right,” says Cranley. “I never voted for an emergency clause when there was a stated grassroots effort to have a referendum on a vote that I was facing.”CityBeat previously covered the parking plan in further detail here.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.06.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Privatization, Parking, Budget at 04:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
downtown grocery

Council Approves Parking Plan, Judge Orders Temporary Halt

Injunction puts agreement to lease parking assets on hold

In a 5-4 vote today, City Council approved a plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance deficits for the next two fiscal years and fund development projects in Downtown, but the plan is now being held up by a Hamilton County judge's temporary restraining order (TRO).The plan was approved with an emergency clause, which means it is not subject to referendum, according to City Solicitor John Curp. Councilman Chris Seelbach joined the parking plan’s five supporters in approving the emergency clause, which is meant to expedite the plan’s implementation by removing a 30-day waiting period.Shortly after the parking plan was approved by City Council, Judge Robert Winkler signed a TRO that will halt its implementation for at least one week. The judge’s action will provide enough time to process a lawsuit filed by Curt Hartman, an attorney who represents the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), on behalf of local activists who oppose the plan and argue it should be subject to referendum.Mayor Mark Mallory says the emergency clause was passed to speed up the plan’s implementation in time for the budget that will begin July 1, not to suppress voters: “I don't think that any member of council has ever voted for an emergency clause in an effort to keep voters from being able to reverse the decision that the council is making, so I take exception with that characterization.”The parking plan got its required fifth vote, up from a 4-3 vote in the Budget and Finance Committee Monday, from Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who abstained from voting in the committee meeting because she said she was concerned about the city’s long-term fiscal outlook. She says her concerns were eased after she read the leasing agreement and listened to a presentation from City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. that gave City Council a few options for fixing the city’s structural deficits.The parking plan’s other supporters were council members Roxanne Qualls, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young. Council members Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voted against the plan.The plan, which CityBeat previously covered (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), will lease the city’s parking assets to fund development projects, including a 30-story tower and a downtown grocery store, and help balance the deficit for the next two fiscal years. The deal will produce a $92 million upfront payment, and the city projects that additional annual installments will generate more than $263 million throughout the lease’s duration.Opponents say they are concerned the plan will give up too much control of the city’s parking meters and garages, which they say could lead to spikes in parking rates.Under the initial plan, downtown rates will remain at $2 an hour and neighborhood rates will be hiked to 75 cents. Afterward, parking meter rates will be set to increase annually by 3 percent or the rate of inflation on a compounded basis, with actual increases coming in at 25-cents-an-hour increments. That should translate to 25-cent increases every three years for downtown and every six years for neighborhoods, according to Meg Olberding, city spokesperson.The city will be able to bypass the so-called “cap” on parking meter rate increases through a unanimous vote from a five-person advisory committee, approval from the city manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. The process, which begins with an advisory committee that will include four members appointed by the Port Authority and one selected by the city manager, will allow the city to raise and lower rates to adjust for changing economic needs, says Olberding.Opponents also say the money from the parking plan is being used too quickly, which does little to alleviate the city’s structural deficits.Dohoney previously argued the plan will help reduce the deficit by generating recurring revenues through long-term economic growth and development.“The situation that we’re in requires that we accelerate growth right now, not later,” he said Monday. “If we do not do that, then we’re going to have further negative ramifications to deal with.”With the lease agreement approved, it is now up to the Port Authority to develop and publicize the bond documents that will further detail the framework of the parking plan.Earlier in the same meeting, City Council unanimously passed a resolution asking the federal government to take up comprehensive immigration reform.Update: This story was updated to reflect Judge Robert Winkler's actions.
 
 

Black Tea

1 Comment · Wednesday, December 5, 2012
 Even Christopher Smitherman and Christopher Finney must roll over in the middle of the night in the strange bed they share and look at one another and wonder: How the hell’d this happen   

Going to the Well

COAST files two new lawsuits over old issues

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) is making a lot of use of member and lawyer Chris Finney these days. The group was recently involved in two lawsuits filed within one week: one regarding the Blue Ash Airport deal and another accusing Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) of campaigning for Issue 42.   
by German Lopez 11.01.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, COAST, Courts, News, Streetcar at 03:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
coast

COAST’s Busy Week in Court

Conservative group involved in two lawsuits related to streetcar, CPS levy

A local conservative group is making a lot of use of member and lawyer Chris Finney. The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) was involved in two lawsuits filed this week: one regarding the Blue Ash Airport deal and another regarding Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS). Criticism of the Blue Ash Airport deal is not new for COAST. The group has repeatedly criticized the deal, largely because as much as $26 million from the deal will be used to fund Cincinnati’s $110 million streetcar. In the past, COAST has repeatedly characterized the streetcar as a “boondoggle.” The deal between Blue Ash and Cincinnati is not new, but it did get reworked earlier this year. In 2006, the $37.5 million deal had Cincinnati selling Blue Ash some land on the Blue Ash Airport property, which Blue Ash would then use to build a park. Blue Ash voters approved the deal, which contained a 0.25 percent earnings tax hike, in a two-to-one margin. When Cincinnati couldn’t get a $10 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the city stopped working on the airport as it became too costly. The city then tried to shift the proceeds from the deal to the Cincinnati streetcar, but the FAA said funding must be used for airports since the property is classified as an airport.  Eventually, Cincinnati asked Blue Ash to rework the deal. The plan was Blue Ash would rescind the deal, and then Cincinnati would officially close down the airport and resell the land to Blue Ash while it’s no longer classified as an airport. At first, city officials said $11 million of the opened-up money would go to the streetcar and $26 million would go to municipal projects. Since then, the city has shifted $15 million of that municipal project funding — supposedly temporarily — to help Duke Energy move underground utility lines from the path of the proposed streetcar route, at least until the city and energy company can work out an ongoing feud. The reworked deal, which was approved by Blue Ash City Council in a 6-1 vote on Aug. 9, seemed like a win-win for both sides. Cincinnati would get more funding for ongoing projects, and Blue Ash netted $2.25 million from the deal — $250,000 to cover fees for Blue Ash’s new park and $2 million was subtracted from the deal since Blue Ash would no longer have to match the FAA grant. But COAST does not approve. The organization doesn’t want any funding redirected to the streetcar, and it claims the reworked deal is not allowed. The lawsuit filed by Blue Ash resident Jeffrey Capell and Finney cites a section of the Blue Ash City Charter that disallows some contracts: “No contract shall be made for a term longer than five years, except that franchises for public utility services and contracts with other governmental units for service to be received or given may be made for any period no longer than twenty years.” Mark Vander Laan, Blue Ash’s city solicitor, says the city charter section the lawsuit is referencing is irrelevant. He argues the deal is not a contract as the city charter defines it; instead, it’s a mortgage and debt instrument. In the Blue Ash City Charter, there’s another section that deals with debt instruments, and that’s what the rescinded deal falls under, according to Vander Laan. He says the city would not function as it does today if the lawsuit’s claim was correct: “If that were the case, all the bonds we’ve ever issued would have been incorrect.” Vander Laan says the real issue here is disapproval of the streetcar, not any legal technicalities: “They may have a complaint about the streetcar, but that’s not the city of Blue Ash’s issue at all. We don’t think it’s even an appropriate basis to challenge this.” He added, “Frankly, if somebody had an issue with (the deal), they should have taken that issue back in 2006 and 2007.” That’s when Blue Ash voters first approved the airport deal, but back then, the money wasn’t going to the streetcar, which didn’t even exist at the time. In another legal battle, COAST filed a lawsuit against CPS over staff allegedly campaigning for Issue 42, a ballot initiative that will renew a CPS levy voters approved in 2008. The case goes back to 2002, when Tom Brinkman, chairman of COAST, sued CPS for “illegal and unconstitutional use of school property for campaign purposes,” according to the lawsuit. That case ended in a settlement, which forced CPS to enter into a “COAST Agreement” that says, “CPS will strictly enforce a policy of preventing … Other Political Advertisements on CPS Property.” But COAST now says that agreement has been broken, and the lawsuit cites emails as evidence. The emails show staff promoting voter registration drives, which aren’t directly linked to Issue 42, and staff offering to contribute and volunteer to the campaign. In the emails, there are a few instances of Jens Sutmoller, Issue 42’s campaign coordinator, asking CPS staff to give him personal emails, which shows he was trying to avoid breaking any rules. In CityBeat’s experience, CPS officials have been pretty strict with following the settlement with COAST. In a Sept. 20 email, Janet Walsh, spokesperson for CPS, told CityBeat she could not provide some levy-related information during work hours: “Yes, but due to constraints about doing levy-related work on work time (we can't), it may have to wait until I can get on my home computer.” COAST has endorsed a “No” vote on Issue 42. In CityBeat’s in-depth look into CPS and Issue 42 (“Battered But Not Broken,” issue of Oct. 3), Brinkman defended COAST’s position by saying they’re not necessarily against the school getting funding. COAST is more interested in holding the school accountable: “It’s a five-year levy. The reason we have five-year levies is so the public can gauge after four or four and a half years how the entity where the taxes are going to is doing with the money.” In that sense, for COAST, it’s important to bring the levy renewal to voters as late in the game as possible — November 2013 in this case. CityBeat this week endorsed a "Yes" vote on Issue 42 here. Criticism of CPS levies is also not new for COAST. The group campaigned against last year’s new, permanent $49.5 million levy, which CPS said it needed to meet new technology needs and keep some buildings open.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.01.2012
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here. If there’s a Democrat-led war on coal in Ohio, it’s not showing in the numbers. PolitiFact checked Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown’s claim that coal jobs and production have gone up in the state since five years ago, and it turns out he’s right. Brown’s remark was in response to Republican challenger Josh Mandel’s claim that Democrats are leading a war on coal. Brown and Mandel are fighting for Ohio's U.S. Senate seat, which CityBeat covered in-depth here. Currently, Brown leads by 5.5 points in aggregate polling. The presidential campaigns are turning it up in Ohio. Ann Romney was in Greater Cincinnati yesterday to campaign for her husband, echoing past visits from Michelle Obama. President Barack Obama will be in Cincinnati Sunday. Mitt Romney will hold a big rally in West Chester on Friday. Ohio could be the state to decide whether Romney or Obama is the next president. Due to Ohio’s importance, lawyers from around the county will be keeping a close eye on the state. With six days of voting left, aggregate polling shows Obama up 2.3 points in Ohio and the race tied nationally. FiveThirtyEight, The New York Times’ forecasting model, says Obama has a 79.9 percent chance of winning Ohio and a 79 percent chance of winning the election. The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) is suing Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) for allegedly using city resources to campaign for Issue 42, which will renew a CPS levy from 2008. In the emails, school officials discuss voter registration drives, signing up to support the levy and contributing to the levy campaign. But in a few emails, Jens Sutmoller, campaign coordinator for Issue 42, asks for personal emails to properly respond. COAST has endorsed a “No” vote on Issue 42. CityBeat covered Issue 42 and the problems facing CPS here. CityBeat also endorsed a “Yes” vote on Issue 42 here. Dropping enrollment in urban district schools, including CPS, has caused some schools to revise building programs downward, saving the state money. In CPS in particular, the school’s project has dropped down to 50 buildings from 66 partly in response to a decline in about 10,000 students since 2002 to about 32,687 enrolled students today. The shift apparently has less to do with students moving to the suburbs and more to do with the greater availability of charter and private schools. The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority’s CEO Laura Brunner laid out the Port Authority’s strategic plan yesterday. The Port Authority seeks to fight poverty, attract residents and increase jobs by expanding inland port operations, developing land, stabilizing targeted communities, upgrading its public financing plan and transparently communicating progress, according to Brunner. A small fraction of absentee ballots might have been rejected due to a state data glitch. The glitch caused Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to deliver 33,000 updated registration records to local elections issues. Tim Burke, chairman of the county Democratic Party and county Board of Elections, expressed mixed feelings about the error: “Obviously, you hate like hell to have the secretary of state’s office, which had promised to have a very efficient election, popping something like that on us seven days out. … Having said that, I’m glad at least once they recognized that these names are out there they moved to get them to us so that we can do our best to ensure that these folks are not disenfranchised because of some administrative glitch.” In related news, Husted got the emergency stay he asked for on a recent voting ruling. Husted said he was happy with the decision in a statement: “With six days to go before Election Day, I am pleased that the Court has granted a stay in this case so that I can give the 88 county boards of elections the clear direction they need on the rules for processing provisional ballots.” There are a few teachers campaigning for office in Ohio, and NPR says the campaigns could give Democrats and Obama a boost. The surge of teachers is largely attributed to Senate Bill 5, which tried to limit collective bargaining among public employees. The teachers figure the only way to prevent another Senate Bill 5 is by holding office. There are also Ohio Board of Education candidates on this year’s ballot. StateImpact Ohio has a look into some of those candidates here. A survey found small firms are doing very little to prepare for Obamacare. Most don’t know what the national health care plan will even do for them. About 70 percent were unsure or incorrectly believed Obamacare will make them pay a tax. Ever want to play Tetris with a pumpkin? Well, apparently someone has.
 
 

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