(Cincinnati) -- A temporary restraining order issued by Judge Robert Winkler is now a permanent restraining order. Of a sort. The original order blocked the City of Cincinnati from entering into an agreement with the Port Authority of Cincinnati over parking facilities.
That agreement would have leased the City's parking facilities, including parking garages and metered street parking spaces, to the Port Authority for 35 years. In exchange, the City would receive about $92 million, which was earmarked for several economic development projects, and was to be used to plug a $25 million dollar hole in the budget for 2013-14.
Judge Winkler agreed with the plaintiffs, who argued City Council rushed the lease approval in order to block a referendum on the issue. Those opponents have been collecting signatures for nearly three weeks, hoping to collect at least 8,500 to get the issue on the November ballot. The temporary restraining order gives them until next week to circulate and collect those petitions.
But, if they cannot get enough signatures, the City can enter the lease agreement. One of the backers of the referendum, Councilman Christopher Smitherman, on with 700WLW's Eddie and Tracy, would not reveal how many signatures they have collected so far.
Mayor Mark Mallory is urging Cincinnati voters to reject the petition. He says a signature on the petition is equal to a pink slip for a police officer or a firefighter.
Without the approval of parking lease, the City has a $25 million budget hole. The City Manager says they are starting the process of laying off 344 city workers, many from the Police and Fire Departments. His plan B would also force the closing of six swimming pools and three community centers.
The Mayor and City Manager say there isn't enough time to address the budget alternatives presented by Councilmembers Seelbach and Winburn.
The budget must be approved by July 1st, but Dohoney says because at the heart of the restraining order is a question of the City's use of emergency clauses, Council needs to have agreed upon a budget by June 1st.
Dohoney says some union employees of the City contractually require a 60-day notice before there are layoffs, so notifications started going out today. Dohoney says if they can avoid a reduction in force, they will.