Business Development News Politics Transportation

Parking Lease Deal to Move Forward Following Appeals Court Ruling

photo (5)This morning the Hamilton County Court of Appeals released its decision on the court case (Lisa McQueen, et al. vs. Milton R. Dohoney, Jr., et al.) concerning whether the City of Cincinnati had the right to enact emergency ordinance provisions in leasing its parking assets to a third party. The decision from the court struck down a lower court’s ruling and in turn upheld the city’s parking lease ordinance and the right for City Council to enact emergency ordinances.

The decision means that the City of Cincinnati can enact its Parking Modernization & Lease Plan, which was passed by City Council 5-4 in March. The ruling also states that citizens do not have the right to file a referendum on items passed with an emergency clause, thus eliminating the possibility of a public vote on the parking lease deal this November.

Immediately following City Council’s March vote, opponents of the plan filed a taxpayer lawsuit against the plan and Judge Robert Winkler issued a restraining order preventing the city from using the emergency ordinance clause for this issue or any issue before the City of Cincinnati. In this particular case, Judge Winkler’s restraining order was issued within minutes of its vote.

Judge Winkler then heard arguments the following week and made a ruling in early-April that allowed a referendum on the emergency ordinance to move forward by questioning the clarity of the city’s charter provisions on the matter.

In May the Court of Appeals heard arguments from both sides. Today the long-awaited decision was announced. In making its decision the Court of Appeals considered several things.

  1. Whether the Plantiff in the case followed the proper legal procedure in filing for the taxpayer lawsuit. The decision documents state in three separate paragraphs that the plaintiffs failed to make the necessary $325 deposit. “The plaintiffs-relators intimate that they cured the deficiency by paying the $325 deposit after the common pleas court had entered its judgment. But the record certified on appeal does not demonstrate that any deposit was made.” Paragraph 23.
  2. Emergency Ordinances are subject to referendum if provisions are provided within the city’s charter: The city’s charter has language outlining the way the city can pass ordinances and emergency ordinances. It also outlines the provisions for referendums. The charter also defaults to state law provisions for what the charter does not cover. Since there were no provisions in the charter for referendum of emergency ordinances, they cannot be challenged to referendums.
  3. The court found that the Emergency Powers provision was backed up by 90 years of case law. In the 90+ years since the enacting of the city’s charter government, Hamilton County and State level courts have ruled in defense of the city’s emergency powers provisions.
  4. The court found that the city properly outlined the nature of the emergency in enacting the emergency ordinance.
  5. The City’s Charter was not ambiguous. The court took the path of interpreting the charter as a whole instead of the sum of its parts.

The ruling is being considered a major victory for the City of Cincinnati as it is now able to move forward with its Parking Modernization & Lease Plan, which will provide an upfront payment of $92 million and annual installments of $3 million from the Port of Greater Cincinnati Authority.

It also defends a wide array of city actions, that are passed with the emergency ordinance clause, from being subject to public referendums. Over the past several years, a host of decisions made by a plurality of City Council had been subject to what some believe is an inefficient way of running a government.

“While Cincinnatians for Progress did not take a position on the parking lease, we believe that good governance is critical to the city of Cincinnati, and we believe that our representative democracy as outlined in the city’s charter is good governance,” Derek Bauman, Co-Chair for Cincinnatians for Progress, told UrbanCincy. “In addition, it is vital for the city to have the ability to pass ordinances as an emergency when necessary. We welcome the appeals court ruling.”

What has yet to be decided is what will happen with the $92 million upfront payment, which was originally planned to cover the city’s budget gap and provide funding for a host of economic development deals.

Since that time, the City of Cincinnati has passed a budget, which originally was to get $25.8M from the parking lease deal, and found alternative funding sources for a number of the projects ($20M for MLK Interchange, $12M for 4th/Race Apartment Tower) involved in the original list.

The result is a $57.8 million question now put before Mayor Mallory’s Administration and City Council.

News Politics Transportation

Potential ballot proposal a serious roadblock to Cincinnati’s future

Advocates for job growth, economic development, alternative transportation and Cincinnati’s future have stepped up to the plate once again. What seemed like a grand-slam finish to beginning the first steps to rail transit in the city is now contested and seemingly up for debate. Again.

Despite clear indication from the voters, the city, and (at one time) the state and federal level that the Cincinnati Streetcar project was a positive contribution to changing Cincinnati for the better, there are those who would rewrite the rule books. The first vote was not enough. It is time for another.

A small but persistent group is at it again, collecting signatures to put yet another proposal on the ballot for the fall election.

This petition, however, would prevent ANY rail transportation systems to be funded or built until 2020. A ten-year ban would force Cincinnati to miss out on an entire generation of building infrastructure, in a time when gas prices are certainly not getting any cheaper, and Cincinnatians will be desperate for options to get around.

“Nothing even remotely like this has ever been proposed in any American city. In a era of rising energy prices, Cincinnati would be handcuffing its flexibility to develop alternative means of getting citizens to work and doing the everyday things of life,” says local transit authority and activist John Schneider. “And since regional rail lines wouldn’t be able to connect within the city limits, this has serious regional implications too.”

Cincinnatians for Progress has broken down the exact language of the ballot proposal, to demonstrate how much is at stake:

What it says:
: “The City shall not spend or appropriate any money on the design, engineering, construction or operation of a Streetcar System, or any portion thereof.”
What it means: This phrase prevents the city from spending any money on anything related to preparing any kind of passenger rail transit in Cincinnati.

What it says: “Further, the City shall not incur any indebtedness or contractual obligations for the purpose of financing, designing, engineering, construction or operating of a Streetcar System, or any portion thereof.”
What it means: This language would make it impossible to accept federal grants, to issue bonds, to enter into public-private partnerships for passenger rail. Even private investment in a rail system in the city limits would be illegal.

What it says: “This Amendment applies from the date it is certified to the Charter, and will continue in effect until December 31, 2020.”
What it means: The arbitrary 10-year ban on preparation is designed to force new transit planning to start from square one in 2021. Because permanent infrastructure requires many years to develop, this language would guarantee Cincinnati sees no rail-based transit for a generation.

What it says: “For purposes of this Amendment, the term ‘Streetcar System’ means a system of passenger vehicles operated on rails constructed primarily in existing public rights of way …”
What it means: The term “streetcar system” in this amendment would ban all rail that runs in on Cincinnati streets or rights-of-way. That would prevent commuter rail and streetcars alike; even restoring the city’s historic inclines would be outlawed.

What it says: “…The term ‘City’ includes without limitation the City, the Manager, the Mayor, the Council, and the City’s various boards, commissions, agencies and departments …”
What it means: Under this language, even Cincinnati’s Metro system could not consider taking advantage of future national and regional funding programs.

What it says: “…The term ‘money’ means any money from any source whatsoever….”
What it means: This language would not only lock out local, state and federal funds, but make it illegal for corporations, non-profits and individuals to pay for rail-based transit.


Says CFP co-chair Mark Schmidt: “[The ballot proposal is] the laziest piece of legislation ever written and an insult to the people of Cincinnati… especially those public servants who play by the rules and commit themselves to the slow and steady process of making this a more perfect union through the hard work of collaboration and compromise.”

The deadline to file a ballot with enough signatures is August 10th. If the measure succeeds, there is a tough road ahead to ensure that this debilitating piece of legislation does not get past.

Readers, please don’t give up. Not everyone supports the streetcar plan in its current form- this is not about the streetcar. We are tired and frustrated at the ways the realities of the situation have unfolded. It’s not fair. It’s not right.

It’s not over.

If you’ve been waiting to get involved, to help out with a cause you believe in, Cincinnatians for Progress could use your support. Sign up to volunteer, donate (time or money) to ensure our great city a chance at the future.

At the very least, continue to educate yourself and help inform others. We will see a day in Cincinnati where the economy is improved, jobs have been created, tax and population base in the city is up, and citizens are not chained to their cars in order to get where they need to go.

Comatose comic by Nick Sweeney.


Don’t Outlaw Choice

Often, those seeking to pass Issue 9 base their skepticism for rail transit on the idea that the success of such a system is unknowable. They claim that there is no way to tell the specific impacts an integrated transportation system will have on our city. Their argument is only true to a point. While pin-point specific data cannot be known until after a system begins operation, there is an ocean of data available from the scores of cities that have chosen to invest in this technology.

Look, if Cincinnati were the first city to come up with the idea of rail transportation, the opponents’ skepticism would be legitimate and welcomed. But we have already seen the effects in literally DOZENS of cities. The results are in and these systems work. The vast majority of their skepticism is baseless, unproductive, and downright ignorant when considering the amount of data that exists supporting rail transportation in its various forms.

Why would they attempt to ban all funding for a public good? Transportation is a public good with public benefits. Because transportation has public benefits and is considered a basic public service, transportation in ALL its forms (including roads) is publicly funded. Just as I-75 wasn’t funded by an individual or a company, neither should rail be. Local leaders need options of how to pay for this public service.

So where does the money come from? In many instances, the large public benefit of transit encourages federal and state funding. But if Issue 9 passes, the ability for Cincinnati leaders to obtain that funding becomes impossible. Federal dollars are highly competitive, and only the cities with the strongest and fastest applications will receive those dollars. Requiring a public vote will slow the process to the point where Cincinnati is taken out of the running. This leaves no choice for local leaders but to fund these projects with just local dollars.

Therefore, to pass Issue 9 is to eliminate choice. It eliminates the choice of city leaders to find funding. But more significantly, it eliminates the choice of how Cincinnatians live.

Passing Issue 9 will outlaw the choice to either drive or take a commuter train to work in the morning.

Passing Issue 9 will outlaw the choice of Cincinnatians to either drive or ride high-speed rail to that conference in Chicago, that protest in DC, that OSU game in Columbus, that concert in St. Louis, that holiday in New York City.

Passing Issue 9 would outlaw the choice to take a train to Bengals game, or pay for $3/gal gas and $15 for parking on top of $80 dollar tickets and $8 beers.

Passing Issue 9 eliminates the choice between having a worry-free night on the town, or having to call it an early night so as to not drive while intoxicated.

Don’t outlaw choice. Vote No on Issue 9.

For more information, visit Cincinnatians for Progress. There you can see who else wants to preserve choice, check out their blog, see other reasons why Issue 9 leads to ineffective governance, sign up to volunteer, request a yard sign, or even donate to the cause.

Image credit here.
News Transportation

Streetcar discussion tonight at Downtown library

Tonight, representatives from COAST and Cincinnatians for Progress will be part of a discussion on the Cincinnati Streetcar proposal. The event is part of the Downtown Residents Council’s monthly community meeting, which will take place at the main branch of the Public Library at 800 Vine Street. The meeting starts at 6:00 pm and will be held in the Tower Room on the library’s third floor.

Learn more about this and other upcoming events by looking at DRC’s Upcoming Events calendar.