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Opponents of the city's parking plan gather signatures to put issue on ballot

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CINCINNATI - People who oppose the city's new parking plan began collecting signatures Sunday in an effort to get the issue on the November ballot.

The kick off event, led by Cincinnati City Councilmember Christopher Smitherman, Amy Murray and Pete Witte, took place Sunday at Oakley Square.

Witte said the event exceeded expectations, especially because of the short turnaround time event organizers had to put it together.

While organizers told 9 On Your Side reporter Amy Wadas that "hundreds" of signatures were collected during the event, additional signatures are likely to be gathered by people who attended the event in the coming days. Witte said he was excited by the number of people who decided to take petitions homes so they could collect signatures of their own.

Citizens will need to collect 7,500 valid signatures within 30 days of the vote on the lease in order to get the issue on the ballot.

Last week Cincinnati City Council voted 5-4 to approve a 30 year lease of the city's parking system. Under the plan, the city's parking meters would be leased to the Port Authority for 30 years.

Parking lots and garages would be leased up to 50 years. The city would then receive a $92 million upfront payment.

Supporters of the deal say it's necessary to keep the city from needing to layoff city workers.

"Our choice today is to say yes to the parking deal and say yes to the Port and unlock the value of our system, or say no to the deal, lay off 189 police officers, 80 firefighters and cut all human service funding," said City Councilmember Laure Quinlivan.

Smitherman said it would be irresponsible of the city to lease the city's parking meters just to balance the budget.

"We can't sell off our meters and lose control of meter rates and garage rates over 52 neighborhoods in Cincinnati and use that money to balance the budget," Smitherman said. "It's irresponsible to do that."

Lease opponents have filed a complaint in the courts alleging council's action was taken to keep a voter referendum from happening.

A hearing will take place Friday, March 15 in Hamilton County Common Please Court. Opponents will ask for an injunction to prevent the city's lease from taking effect until a referendum is held.

"What we're trying to do is collect as many signatures as we can between now and Thursday at midnight to show the judge that there's a real interest in having a ballot in November," Smitherman said.

9 On Your Side reporter Amy Wadas contributed this report

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