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Supporters of Cincy parking lease say 'don't sign petitions'

Sarah Ramsey

Cincinnati's Mayor and the five Council Members who voted for the controversial parking lease proposal are asking residents to get the facts before signing petitions to put the measure on the ballot.  

Mayor Mark Mallory said some have taken his comments last week about laying off police officers and firefighters as a threat.

“I’m giving the citizens of Cincinnati the reality of the fact that if this parking plan does not move forward, we will not have the resources we need to balance the budget beginning July 1,” Mallory said, “Therefore we will be forced to layoff city employees, which will include police officers and firefighters.”

Mayor Mallory held a press conference Tuesday with Council Members Roxanne Qualls, Cecil Thomas, Wendell Young, Laure Quinlivan and Yvette Simpson.  

The group is asking residents to get the facts before signing petitions. Young suggested people read the lease plan.

“When you’re signing that petition, do you really know anything about the parking plan,” Young asked.  “We are people whose only job is to make certain we understand what we’re doing. We read that plan, we understand it, we embrace it and we really thought you trusted us to represent you fairly.”

The city manager is proposing to eliminate 443 city positions, meaning 338 workers could be getting pink slips in the coming weeks. Besides workforce reductions other city services will be reduced including closing three recreation centers and six city swimming pools.

Meanwhile, city lawyers are appealing a judge's decision last week barring the city from moving ahead with the lease and allowing the possible referendum to move forward. The city is asking the appeals court to issue a ruling by May 1.

Parking lease opponents must gather 8,522 signatures to place the plan on the ballot. They're scheduled to deliver those documents to the city Thursday afternoon.

Opponents are concerned about the city leasing away its parking facilities.  They argue parking rates could skyrocket as a result of the plan. They also argue the revenue from the plan is a one-time source that does nothing to solve the city’s problem of spending more money than it takes in.

Councilmembers Seelbach and Sittenfeld say they're planning a special council meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the layoff proposal.

In a release the pair seek answers to the following questions.

Major Questions Still Unanswered by the Administration: 1) Why start with layoffs to police and fire relative to other cuts? 2) Why has a plan not been brought forward to use casino revenue? 3) What consideration was given to priority based budgeting, for which we allocated $100K specifically to get the public's input? 4) Why has the Administration given multiple answers on the use of parking revenue in the General Fund? 5) What consideration has been given to issuing our own revenue bonds against parking meter profit to help with the deficit?