City Solicitor John Curp on Aug. 15 rebuked a conservative group that asked him to sue the city of Cincinnati over changes made to the city's parking lease without City Council's explicit approval.
With Curp's denial, the conservative group behind the request — the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) — is now legally able to once again sue the city over its plans to lease Cincinnati's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. It would be the second time COAST has taken major legal action over the parking plan.
In a letter to COAST's attorney, Curp writes that the two changes COAST called "significant and material" in its July 17 letter were shifts in dates and time limits that were necessary because a previous lawsuit from COAST forced the city to delay implementation of the parking lease for more than two months. In other words, COAST is trying to use the delays it forced to stop the parking lease once again.
Curp also argues in his letter that the lease gave the city manager the power to make changes that keep the lease "substantially in the form" approved by Council and authorizes city officials to "take all necessary and proper actions" to carry out the lease. Curp writes the disputed changes were within those terms.
In response to Curp's denial, COAST member and attorney Chris Finney told The Cincinnati Enquirer that COAST will pursue another lawsuit against the parking lease if Council doesn't vote on the disputed changes.
Although a majority of Council now says it opposes the parking lease, Mayor Mark Mallory has said he will hold any legislation trying to repeal or undo key elements of the deal.
Under the parking lease, the city will receive a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual payments, according to city estimates. Private operators will also be tasked with modernizing Cincinnati's parking assets so parking meters can accept credit cards and payment through a smartphone.
Supporters of the parking lease argue it's necessary to leverage the city's parking assets for development projects and modernize the city’s parking services.
Opponents say the lease gives up too much public control over the city’s parking assets and will hurt local residents and businesses by causing meter rates and operation hours to go up.
The parking plan has been engulfed in political controversies since it was first unveiled by the city manager in October. Most recently, the city administration withheld a memo that was critical of the plan from the public, City Council and Port Authority — a move that triggered outrage about the administration's lack of transparency.