Friday, March 15, 2013

The path to victory

A powerful drama played out today in Judge Bob Winkler's courtroom with attorney Curt Hartman representing community leaders fighting for ballot access for a referendum on Cincinnati City Council's Parking Plot.  On the other side were three attorneys from the City Solicitor's office and three more from the Dinsmore law firm, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars to Cincinnati taxpayers.

Judge Winker has taken the matter under advisement.

How might this play out?, everyone is asking.

Well, there are several possible scenarios:
  • Judge Winkler could continue his injunction permanently, which means that the petition drive may proceed, and if sufficient signatures are collected the issue would ascend to the ballot.
    • In this scenario, the City can appeal, but the clock works against them.
    • The Court of appeals typically takes a year or longer to resolve appellate issues.  On an expedited basis it might act in 90 to 180 days at the earliest.  It is exceedingly unlikely they would dissolve Judge Winkler's injunction before that timeframe.
    • In the meantime, the City has a budget that presently is $25 million out of balance.  It must right that for the fiscal period ending June 30, and for the coming fiscal year starting July 1.  That means that before the legal case is over, the City will once and for all need to address its chronic and acute fiscal imbalance.  That is very good news indeed.
    • As the Council election approaches, the Council is under tremendous pressure to repeal the pernicious ordinance authorizing the Plot.
  • Judge Winkler could dissolve the injunction, but rule that the referendum may proceed nonetheless.  In such event, the Port Authority likely will refuse to perform and pay the $92 million price, in the fear that the lease will be ruled invalid after a November vote.
  • Judge Winkler could rule on all matters against the Plaintiffs, i.e., no injunction and no right of referendum.  That would be problematic, but Plaintiffs will appeal to vindicate these rights.  In such scenario, we would finish the petition drive and litigate to have it placed on the ballot.  If it passes, we would sue to void the parking meter lease.  
So, regardless of how Judge Winkler rules next week, opponents of the Parking Plot still have a fighting chance to reclaim this area of policy from the craziest council in memory.

Stay tuned to the COAST blog for updates.

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