(Cincinnati) -- Saying he had a murder trial that was taking all of his attention, Judge Robert Winkler extended a temporary restraining order, Wednesday, blocking the City of Cincinnati from signing a lease for its parking facilities.
Judge Winkler had said Friday he expected to rule on a suit charging City Council moved too quickly to approve the lease.
The deal itself would give control of publicly owned parking garages and metered parking spaces on city streets, to the Port Authority, who would then contract with private companies to run the parking facilities. In exchange, the City of Cincinnati would get about $92 million, to shore up its budget for the next year, and for various economic development projects.
The extention is not a big deal, according to Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. "It's just two weeks delay. Obviously, the judge is busy."
Opponents of the parking lease plan welcome the extension, as it gives them more time to circulate petitions, as they look to get the issue on the November ballot. Councilman Christopher Smitherman says they have about 4,000 signatures in hand, they need at least 8,500 valid signatures, and hope to collect 17,000, to make sure they have enough.
Their deadline is April 2nd. The TRO lasts until April 3rd.
If those opponents are successful in the petition drive, City Council would likely have to revisit the budget, as the lease would be held up until November. The approved spending plan for the next year, due July 1st, relies upon $25 million from the lease. City Manager Milton Dohoney has warned without that cash, there would likely be layoffs. And since some of those positions that would be eliminated are union, the City would be required to give the unions 60 days notice.
"There's still time," said Qualls.