The city of Cincinnati and opponents of the parking plan met in court March 15 to debate whether laws passed with emergency clauses are subject to referendum — a crucial legal issue as the city attempts to speed ahead with plans to lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the deficit and foster economic development.
After hearing extensive legal arguments from both sides, Judge Robert Winkler said a decision was unlikely on the day of the hearings and he had yet to rule as of press time.
Curt Hartman, who represented opponents of the parking plan, argued the city charter’s definition of emergency clauses is ambiguous, and precedent supports siding with voters’ right to referendum when there is ambiguity.
Terry Nestor, who represented the city, said legal precedent requires the city to defer to state law as long as state law is not contradicted in the city charter.
Cincinnati’s city charter does not specify whether emergency legislation is subject to referendum, but state law explicitly says emergency laws are not subject to referendum.
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, previously told CityBeat that if the parking plan is held up for too long in legal battles, the city will have to carry out spending cuts before July to balance the budget in time for fiscal year 2014.
Emergency clauses remove a 30-day waiting period on passed legislation, and the city claims they remove the ability to referendum.
City Council approved the parking plan in a 5-4 vote on March 6 before attaching an emergency clause to the law in a 6-3 vote. But the law was quickly put on hold by a temporary restraining order from Winkler after a lawsuit was filed in favor of subjecting the plan to referendum.