Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Relief for Chicago drivers?

I love the city, but I hate its relentless parking tickets. Being a commuter student who lives in Chicago, sometimes it's pretty tricky finding legit parking without having to wake up at 7 to move your car before rush hour. Sometimes it's worse when driving home from night classes because by the time I get home, most of my neighbors have settled in for the night and taken every available spot that doesn't require an early rise. For a while this year I was convinced that my car was giving off invisible meter-maid signals drawing them to my Jetta.


My friends are in a band Treaty of Paris, and several of those members live in the suburbs but work in the city. They laments the pain as well in their song Tired All the Time: "The city's out of parking spaces, but never out of orange citations, paper slips and brand new yellow boots."

I am someone who has been booted, towed, and ticketed multiple times by the city of Chicago (in instances that have been both my fault and NOT my fault), and still make the trip every month to the Department of Revenue to pay down my ever-growing payment plan.

The "boot threshold"--which is the number of unpaid, doubled tickets you can have before your car is booted--dropped from five to three in 2002, to two earlier this year. Ouch.

Last Wednesday, Nov. 5, Mayor Daley announced a new parking ticket amnesty plan which will run from Dec. 1 through Feb. 14., which excited me at first. However, the details of the "deal" aren't that great: a 50 percent waiver of penalties on tickets issued before Jan. 1, 2007.

...So, if I have a $50 ticket from 2006 which doubled to $100 (ticket fines double after two months), I would be able to pay $75 to clear it from my record.

It's something, I guess.

Although this doesn't directly benefit me, as my tickets are more recent, I'm sure this will help a lot of people, because there are people who owe nearly $72,000.00 in parking ticket debt. Carla Morgan has 442 tickets which amount to that much, according to the City of Chicago's list of debtors. The next highest "scofflaw" owes $44,000 on 333 tickets. How do you get THAT bad? How do you climb out from under THAT much parking ticket debt? Unbelievable. It makes me feel a lot better about myself.

Anyhow, this was nice news to receive last week. And although I've yet to be a victim of red-light Big Brother camera violations (knock on wood...), those who have been will benefit as well. I know city aldermen criticized Daley for lowering the boot threshold; I wonder if electing a Chicagoan president also had anything to do with this softening of heart (which it really isn't; it's a quick revenue-generating tactic.)? I just wish the amnesty were extended to tickets from 2007. Or even this year, why not?

I'm writing Obama. I know where he lives.

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