Friday, December 21, 2012

City 'FAQs' address parking proposal misconceptions, concerns

In an attempt to clear up misconceptions and to quell residents' concerns about a proposal to form a public-private partnership to operate the City's parking system, the City of Cincinnati on Dec. 18 released on its website a series of parking "FAQs".

The parking proposal from City Manager Milton Dohoney came up for debate during negotiations for next year's City budget, which was passed by City Council on Dec. 14. Although the proposal was not approved, the budget does assume $21 million in revenues from a parking contract – meaning that if the proposal isn't approved next spring, the City will have to find $21 million to plug the gap.

The City received nine bids from prospective operators of Cincinnati's nearly 9,000 parking spaces, which could bring between $100 million and $150 million over the life of a 30-year lease.

According to the release, the City is not selling the parking system for 30 years for a one-year solution to a $34 million budget deficit. Rather, it is searching for a long-term management partner to which it will lease parking operations, and that the City will "retain significant control".

"This public-private partnership will expand the City's Parking system and provide for an ongoing revenue stream for the next 30 years," the release said. "By leasing the parking system, the City will have greater flexibility in how it uses the money now and in budget cycles to come to pay for expenses in the General Fund and for Capital [Fund projects]."

Many have also criticized the proposal for being rushed, without any public input. City administration counters that any long-term lease would be thoroughly vetted and negotiated before any deal is presented to City Council next February or March.

"The Administration is studying what other cities have done right, and what others could have done better," the release said. "No final evaluations or determinations have been made. This is a negotiation and now City staff, financial and parking consultants will meet with the companies who submitted proposals."

Finally, City administration contends that it will be part of any decision regarding rates and would never allow them to go "sky-high", driving visitors and businesses away from Downtown and the neighborhood business districts. But it does caution that rates will increase no matter who owns the system, due to market realities such as inflation.

"There will be limits spelled out in the contract for the parking partner," the release said. "The parking partners' prices will not exceed the market's rates".

Previous reading on BC:
Garage serving new Holiday Inn gets 115 more spaces (12/14/12)
City plans offer for Tower Place in 9 days (11/20/12)
Elimination of Downtown, OTR parking minimums being studied (6/27/12)