Victorious in court, Cincinnati's city manager signs parking lease

Will take 6 months to implement

CINCINNATI - In a 17-word message on Twitter, the city of Cincinnati announced Tuesday afternoon that the city manager has signed a controversial parking lease.

“With TRO lifted, City Mgr has signed parking lease,” the tweet sent at 3:56 p.m. read. “ Changes to hours etc. can still be made.”

The action occurred after Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Winkler dissolved his earlier injunction against the lease on Monday evening.

An appellate court overturned Winkler’s injunction June 12, ruling that city officials had the legal authority to enact the lease as an emergency ordinance, which would allow it to take immediate effect.

Now the director of the Port Authority must sign the lease before it can take effect. Even then, the Port must prepare the specific documents so a New York investment bank can sell bonds that will pay for the deal.

“Implementation is still several months off,” said City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. “The Port still has to put the bonds out to market.”

It should take about 60 to 90 days to sell the bonds, said city spokeswoman Meg Olberding.

Also, city officials will draft a transition plan to implement the lease, along with a community outreach program to more fully explain it to residents, during the next four to six months.

“It will be about six months before folks start to see the changes,” Olberding said.

Lease opponents, however, are hoping the Ohio Supreme Court will agree to hear the case and allow a planned voter referendum in November to proceed.

Under the deal, the city’s parking meters would be leased to the Port Authority for 30 years, while the city’s parking lots and garages would be leased for 40 years.

In return, the city would get a $92 million upfront payment, along with annual payments of about $3 million for the remainder of the lease.

City officials planned to use the money to help avoid deficits in the 2014 and 2015 budgets, and to quicken the pace of some citywide development projects. Instead, they used other sources of money to fill gaps in the budget, which was approved in late May.

A New York-based financial consultant hired by the city to analyze the lease said the city would get $197.4 million – or 41 percent of its current market value. The remainder of the lease's value will go to the Port Authority, private contractors and Guggenheim Partners, the firm that will issue debt to support the deal.

Opponents said the lease would cause rate increases and aggressive enforcement might drive away customers from small businesses, while some residents said the city was undervaluing a prime city asset.

Read the full lease here


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