CINCINNATI - A special hearing was held at City Hall Monday night where residents gathered to voice their concerns about the city's new parking proposal that would affect the future of parking meters, lots and garages across Cincinnati.
Last week, City Manager Milton Dohoney announced a proposal to lease the Hamilton County Port Authority system that would last for 30 years for metered parking, and up to 50 years for city-owned garages and lots.
In return, the city would get $92 million in an upfront payment, along with annual payments of $3 million that would gradually increase over time, which city officials say would help fill the city's budget gap.
During the announcement it was stressed that rates couldn't increase above a set maximum amount, but officials later confirmed there was a way around the cap. An advisory board would oversee the city's parking system that could increase rates above the maximum amount, city officials acknowledged.
Officials said the board could only do so under limited circumstances that require multiple layers of approval, but residents are still concerned about the proposal.
Most residents at Monday night's hearing opposed the city manger's plan.
"They're simply looking for new revenue to give us a two-year patch on this without really dealing with the issues of the budget deficit," said Oakley business owner Mark Rogers.
Cincinnati resident Austin Piech, who lived in Chicago when the city's parking assets were leased in 2008, said he witnessed the impact the decision had on businesses. Piech said drivers now pay more than $6 an hour to park in downtown Chicago.
"You saw tons of businesses especially those located inside the loop, which saw the most serious parking rate increases, have to close, people could no longer afford to shop at these businesses, because there was almost a parking tax so to speak to shop downtown," said Piech.
Some, however, say they support the decision to lease Port Authority to help balance the city's $34 million budget shortfall.
"Are we going to close it through raising taxes, are we going to close it through laying off safety workers, or are we going to close it with the plan presented tonight, I think the plan as presented tonight is a decent plan, it seems to have more good in it than it does have bad," said resident Luke Brockmeier.
Residents will have another chance to have their opinions heard at meeting at City Hall Wednesday at 6 p.m.