Parking petition reaches valid signature requirement

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke says opponents of the Cincinnati parking plan appear to have reached enough signatures to place the measure on the November ballot.

City Council previously approved a measure to outsource the city's parking. The plan would give the city $92 million up front and $3 million per year. However, a group of citizens filed a lawsuit against the city and Judge Robert Winkler granted a permanent injunction to stop the city from moving forward with the plan.

The citizens want the issue on the November ballot and circulated a petition. On April 4, they presented the petition with 19,893 signatures to the City Finance Director's Office. They needed a minimum of 8,522 valid signatures to meet the requirement.

On Thursday, Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Smitherman said out of the 13,616 signatures counted, 8,709 signatures were validated by the Board of Elections.

The signatures all must come from registered voters living within the City of Cincinnati who correctly report their address. There are still more than 6,000 signatures that have yet to be verified.

Just a few weeks prior, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory said if the parking plan is delayed, layoffs would be unavoidable.

"You sign a petition to put this issue on a ballot, you are signing a pink slip for a cop or a firefighter," said Mallory.

Now, it's close to happening.

In a meeting Thursday between Cincinnati Fire Chief Richard Braun and the firefighter union, it became clear as to where cuts could be made.

It ultimately could end with about 120 firefighters out of a job, potential closures in Over-the-Rhine, Clifton, Hyde Park and Sedamsville, plus cuts to training and other programs.

"Plans include cutting between 13 and 16 companies, on top of potentially the brownouts we already do every day.  So, half your fire companies could close, which means entire firehouses would be closed," said Matt Alter, president of Local Union 48.

Smitherman says layoffs aren't the way to go, despite his own support for putting the parking plan up to a vote.

"The mayor and the manager, and 5 to 6 members of council have mismanaged the city budget for 8 years, and now they're blaming it on the citizens of Cincinnati.  It's just a false choice between those two issues," Smitherman told FOX19.

In an email to FOX19, FOP President Kathy Harrell said with these signatures, "They can now start focusing on how to balance a budget to save police and fire jobs."

Fire union leader Matt Alter says they've been in business for 160 years to protect Cincinnati.

"160 years ago the city council realized that the citizens of Cincinnati, in order to grow our city, needed a professional fire department, and here we are 160 years later talking about completely destroying that," added Alter.

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