CITY HALL Aldermen balk at Daley's idea of locking up more scofflaws' cars to raise cash to help fill $400 million budget hole
July 31, 2008Motorists with just two delinquent parking or red-light tickets would face the dreaded Denver boot, under a revenue-generating plan introduced by Mayor Daley Wednesday that infuriated Chicago aldermen.
Under the mayor's proposal, 208,273 vehicles would currently be eligible for the boot.
Now that Daley is scrounging for every available dollar to plug a $400 million budget shortfall, he wants to lower the bar even further -- to two tickets. The move would generate "tens of millions" of dollars in added revenue, officials said.
Aldermen from congested North Side and impoverished South and West Side wards reacted angrily to the mayor's squeeze plan, quietly introduced at Wednesday's City Council meeting.
"Two tickets is not somebody being a scofflaw. You can have two tickets easily -- and need an extra month to pay them -- just by overparking on one location on one day," said Ald. Helen Shiller (46th).
"That's a big mistake. It's too low, and it's too punitive. If you weigh the revenue against the impact on people, I don't think it's worth it. It creates a huge hardship. People need their cars. They're already limiting [their driving] as it is because of gas prices."
At a time when consumers are struggling mightily with layoffs, home foreclosures and skyrocketing food and fuel prices, the city has no business "adding to the hardship" with an unrealistically low boot threshold, said Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th).
"There are many people who have to drive and, try as they might, they get tickets because of density of the neighborhoods they live in. They miss that meter by two or three minutes and that's a ticket. It's not like people are purposely trying to violate the parking laws," Lyle said.
"For us to reduce the booting [threshold] from three to two will certainly provide the city with additional revenue because you'll catch so many more of our constituents. But, that's not the way we should try to balance the budget."
Police Committee Chairman Isaac Carothers added, "People are struggling already trying to make ends meet. To go to two tickets may be going a little bit too far. Two tickets is an awfully [low number] to come out and boot somebody's car. ... It just seems like we're doing so much to squeeze people when they're already in bad shape."
Revenue Director Bea Reyna-Hickey countered that Chicago can no longer afford to give a pass to drivers with two unpaid tickets.
"When we booted on five tickets, motorists hovered at four. Now that we boot on three tickets, motorists continue to not pay two tickets. This is significant revenue that, for the most part, is over one year old. We need to do all we can to collect it. We know it's in the tens of millions of dollars," Hickey said.
The lower booting threshold isn't the only hammer that City Hall wants to bring down on scofflaws.
Daley is also proposing that collection costs -- which range from seven percent on ambulance fees to 22 percent for parking tickets -- be passed along to ticketed Chicagoans who refuse to pay up.
Collection costs would be added to the tab after a grace period that ends Dec. 6. Parking and red light ticket scofflaws who sign up for payments plans would be excused from collection fees.
Pressed on the fairness issue, Hickey said, "Is it fair to all the other people who are paying their parking tickets that we continue to expend city resources sending repeated notices and incurring collection costs because they won't pay?"
Last year, Chicago booted 58,886 vehicles. The booting rate is up slightly this year -- to 29,719 through June 30 -- thanks to vans equipped with automated license plate readers.