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Cincinnati's arguments in parking lease appeal


Cincinnati lawyers are making two major arguments as the city appeal’s a judge’s decision that let opponents of the parking lease place the issue on the November ballot.  

In a brief filed Friday with the Ohio First District Court of Appeals city lawyers argued the trial court erred by declaring that all city ordinances are subject to referendum and that the plaintiffs have standing to bring their claims. 

“This case is about whether Article II, Section 3 of the Cincinnati Charter permits City Council to pass ordinances that are effective immediately and not subject to referendum,” the brief states. “For 87 years and countless emergency ordinances, the answer has been yes. Yet now, the answer suddenly is no, contrary, to the Ohio Constitution, state law, the Cincinnati Charter, and this Court’s cases. The trial court decision should be reversed, and the Court should enter judgment in favor of Defendants (collectively, the “City”) by declaring that Ordinance 56-2013 and all emergency ordinances are immediately effective and not subject to referendum.”

Meanwhile, several other groups and businesses filed a brief supporting the city’s appeal.  

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, 3CDC, Al Neyer and others argue the lower court decision in the parking lease case has the potential to cripple economic development in the city.

“This case is not about the proposed parking transaction,” the amici curiae brief stated. “The stakes are far greater than any single ordinance or project. The trial court’s decision limits all emergency ordinances of the City of Cincinnati. Under the trial court’s interpretation of the charter of the City of Cincinnati, all ordinances, even those adopted as emergency measures intended to take effect immediately, are subject to referendum. The result is to deprive such ordinances of needed certainty because they would be subject to the ever-present possibility of referendum and injunction—just like the injunction the trial court entered in this case. This result would cripple economic development potential in the City.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs who filed the case have until April 29th to submit their brief to the appeal’s court.  

A three-judge panel will hear oral arguments in the case on May 6th.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Winkler issued a permanent injunction in March barring the city from moving forward with the parking lease until residents get a chance to vote.

He found the City Charter gives residents the right to seek a referendum on any ordinances passed by City Council even if it includes an “emergency clause.”

Parking lease opponents gathered more than 19,000 petition signatures to place the issue on the November ballot.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati officials are working on different alternatives to balance the city’s General Fund budget.  City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. planned to use more than $25 million from the parking lease to stabilize the budget, which must be in place by July 1st.

Dohoney’s “Plan B” includes laying off 344 city workers including hundreds of police officers and firefighters.