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New Controversies Over Parking Plan

    A new twist on the Cincinnati parking privatization controversy ... a 27-million dollar twist, in fact.
     It looks like Cincinnati is once again feeding the meter of controversy. 
     The seemingly-finished parking privatization deal, where the city leases out its parking facilities, may be changing.
     And if you're surprised by that ... you're not alone.    
     Local 12 News Reporter Jeff Hirsh shares a potential change in how a lot of the nearly 100-million dollars from the deal will be used.

     The parking deal is like an octopus, tentacles this way and that.  Let me try to sort out this latest twist before those tentacles squeeze me to death.
 Such a flap over the humble parking meter.  At first, the city manager said the 92 million dollars from parking privatization would go for things like saving the jobs of police officers and firefighters, and a downtown high rise.
    But other money was found for that .. .and so last month, the city signed a contract with the Port Authority Economic Development Agency to do the deal.   The Port would then lease the city's parking meters, lots, and garages to a private corporation.
     But now ... two revelations.   First ... the Port Authority wants 27-million of the parking deal's dollars.  And second, the Port's Vice-Chair Lynn Marmer once wrote an internal e-mail saying the city had lied to the public about the budget.

I spoke with Marmer she said yes the word lied is a strong term and she regrets using the world.  But Marmer said back when she sent the e-mail in mid-June, you have to remember that the city's position on the parking deal and what they would do with the money was constantly changing. And because the Port Authority had to sign off on the deal, she wanted to make sure they weren't rushed and knew what was going to happen.

Vice-Mayor Roxanne Qualls would not comment on Marmer's e-mail... said using parking dollars through the Port is legit.

Roxanne Qualls, Vice-Mayor:
"These are all economic development projects, the benefit the neighborhoods. The Port is following the request of the city to focus on economic development in these neighborhoods. We have supported them in the past and they have asked us to support them in the future."
Meantime, the anti-tax group COAST, which tried unsucessfully to get repeal of the parking deal on the ballot, is trying something else.
    In a letter to city hall, COAST says the parking agreement signed by the city manager is illegal.
     One of COAST's attorneys says the manager, the mayor, and the vice-mayor are changing the deal behind closed doors.

Curt Hartman, COAST Attorney:
"And I can tell you city council is not being informed of it, let alone approve it. So, you've got this troika of three individuals basically running the city. They treat city council like potted plants and the voters in contempt."

"COAST once again shows itself to be the obstructionist purveyor of 'no' to everything as it has always been."

    So, where does this leave us?   Well, the Port Authority has 75 days to review its contract with the city. So, in theory, at least, the Port could blow everything up ... or at least insist on changes.
     And COAST is asking the city attorney to sue the city manager to stop the deal.   That's not going to happen. So, COAST may then go to court itself.
     I feel the octopus squeezing tighter.    Assuming the deal goes forward, the city is supposed to get three million dollars a year from the private operator for the next thirty to fifty years ... in addition to the 92-million dollars up front.



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