Cranley, Port Authority agree to nix parking lease

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - John Cranley and The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development announced Tuesday the city's controversial parking lease is going to be canceled.

The agreement comes just one week after Cranley was elected as Cincinnati's new mayor, who campaigned against the lease throughout 2013.

Cincinnati signed the parking lease with the Port Authority in June after several months of legal proceedings. Under the plan, the city would have leased both parking meters for the next 30 years and city-owned parking lots and garages for up to 50 years. It would have given the city $85 million up front as well as an estimated $3 million annually.

The port authority has not yet sold the bonds for the deal. They approved a resolution on Wednesday to freeze the bonds until the new council meets.

They'll officially be sworn in on Dec. 1.

Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld, a strong opponent of the parking lease, released a statement on Tuesday:

"It is a tremendously positive announcement for the city and its citizens that the current parking deal is now dead. I was glad to help sound the alarm on this deal from the beginning, but this victory ultimately belongs to the public, who were instrumental in providing sustained public pressure. This has shown us that the public values its public assets and wants long-term solutions to our financial challenges, not short-term fixes."

The end of the parking lease is set to help a lot of small businesses in surrounding Cincinnati neighborhoods. Many local shops were concerned the parking rates would go up and the time of enforcement would be extended.

"For the independent, small business here on the square I think it's great news," said Kevin Neal, who works for one of these small businesses.

Neal works at a shop in Hyde Park and says parking affects nearly everyone and today's parking lease decision is a step in the right direction for communities across Greater Cincinnati.

"We would have been forcing the residents of these local, fine communities to go elsewhere and it's as simple as that. It's a matter of cost, it's a matter of convenience," Neal added.

Mayor elect John Cranley says the parking lease is simply a bad deal for the future of the city's budget and last week's election proved a point.

"The voters were loud and clear that they did not want us to enter into this 30 and 50 year deal. We are listening to the voters," Cranley stated.

So without this plan, what's next for the city's parking system? Cranley says they intend to modernize it whether that be internally or externally, and that includes the ability to pay by credit card at every meter in the city.

"To have eight, nine quarters in your pocket - it's just not practical. I think anything electronic is only going to help give people an opportunity to shop more, to visit more," explained Neal.

But what happens to the MLK Interchange project and adding positions to police and fire, things this parking lease money was set to go towards?

"We have plenty of opportunities to invest properly in safety services more than the city currently is and the city has a healthy capital budget and priorities like MLK are going to get done," said Cranley.

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