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Council still debating parking lease even with favorable court rulings


Update 6/17/13 9:50 PM:  Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler signed an order Monday dissolving permanent injunction in the Cincinnati parking lease case.  Judge Winkler also entered a judgment in favor of the city and against the plaintiffs.  Costs to be paid by plaintiffs. With permanent injunction dissolved, city officials should have "green light" to sign the parking lease agreement with the Port Authority.

Original post:  Cincinnati Council is still debating repealing or modifying a parking lease with the Port Authority, even as an appeals court rejected a motion to stay its decision from last week that allows the city to move forward with the proposal.  

The Budget and Finance Committee discussed the issue Monday for nearly three hours.

Anywhere from five to six Council Members either want to repeal the lease completely or to renegotiate the terms of the deal.  

City Manager Milton Dohoney said he needs to know something.

“The administration would hope that Council would deliberate in whatever fashion you intend to give us the clarity we need,” Dohoney said.  “If we’re going forward, we should know we are going forward.  If we’re going forward only to stop in a week or two, that’s not advisable.”

Without a stay of the court decision, Dohoney could sign the parking lease before the end of the week.  

Council Member Laure Quinlivan voted for the plan in March, but has now changed her mind because she says the circumstances surrounding the lease have changed.

“I think it would be a shame if you just go ahead, knowing the majority of Council doesn’t want you too,” Quinlivan said.  “Yes the mayor can technically prevent it from getting on a committee, but we can do better and we should.  There’s no reason to just plow ahead.”

But any effort to repeal or modify the plan would have to go through Mayor Mark Mallory, and he has the power to keep it off the Council agenda.  

Mallory said last week he has no intention of placing a repeal ordinance in a committee.  Article II of the city charter gives the mayor that power.  He does have to refer items to committee, but there's no timetable on when that has to happen.  Mayor Mark Mallory could wait until the last day of the Council term on November 30th to send any parking lease repeal to a committee.  

While a full repeal is unlikely, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls did open the door for some modifications to the lease deal.

“I’m happy to listen to my colleagues who would like to propose reasonable changes that do not actually undermine or unravel the actual deal itself,” Qualls said.
Those modifications could include changing the operating hours for parking meters in downtown and neighborhood areas.  

Parking lease opponents collected more than 12,000 valid petition signatures to put the issue on the November ballot, but the court decision means the issue will not be on the ballot.