Cincinnati Parking Privatization Contract Referendum (November 2013)

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A City of Cincinnati Parking Privatization Contract Referendum ballot question was going to be on the November 5, 2013 ballot for voters in the City of Cincinnati, which is in Hamilton County, Ohio.

Early in March, the Cincinnati City Council passed an emergency ordinance allowing a 30 year, $92 million contract with the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, in which the Development Authority will take charge of managing much of the parking in the city. This move towards privatization of city parking met with much opposition and a petition drive to put the ordinance to a vote in the November election was quickly organized. In April, just a little over a month after the ordinance was approved in the City Council, petitioners turned in 12,446 valid signatures, which is nearly 4,000 more than the 8,552 required to initiate a referendum.[1][2][3][4].

The city went to court to try to keep this measure from being put on the ballot, and the Hamilton County Board of Elections was ordered by the Hamilton County Appeals Court to remove the referendum from the ballot.[5]

While the city awaited the judicial decision on the appeal, the city manager Milton Dohoney signed the contract with the Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and now that contract is safe from a referendum vote. Dohoney faced opposition from many council members who, changing their position, wanted to either repeal or alter the ordinance that they earlier approved.[4]


Although many city council members have changed their position on this ordinance since their approval of it in March, city manager Dohoney, Mayor Mark Mallory and ordinance supporters defend the contract, arguing that it is necessary to help balance the $35 million city budget deficit, prevent the hundreds of police and fire lay-offs, and allow for major redevelopment projects. Mallory said of the petition effort when it began that "anyone who signs the opponents’ petitions is essentially signing a pink slip for a police officer or firefighter."[6][2]


Opponents of the Ordinance, who are in favor of the referendum against the ordinance, argue that the city should be able to balance its budget without cutting services and without depending on this parking contract. They also argue that the proposed redevelopment projects that may be funded by money from the parking contract are unnecessary and should be done by the private sector not public funds.[2]

Court case

Status: Ruled in favor of the city. Blocked the referendum question from the ballot.

When this ordinance was brought to court, the alleged right of the citizens to vote on this issue, despite the "emergency status" approved by city council members, was upheld by Judge Robert C. Winkler of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, who wrote, “The city charter does not specifically exempt emergency legislation from the powers reserved to the people." But the fate of the November referendum was finally decided in Appellate Court, as the city succeeded in keeping the measure off of the ballot.[4]

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