Despite facing a looming budget crisis, the City’s Administration and Public Works Committee has absolutely no appetite for an increase in expired-meter fines and street-sweeping parking fines and a reduction in the number of tickets needed to get the Boot from five to three. All three ordinances seeking such changes failed to get a second when motioned for approval by a member of the Committee.
Under Council rules, if a motion fails to get a second from another alderman, the motion automatically fails.
Tickets for overstaying paid time at an Evanston parking meter now cost $10, increasing to $20 if not paid in a timely manner. Staff suggested raising the initial fine to $20. Tickets for parking in a street-sweeping route result ina a $35 fine – staff suggested the fine should be $50. Under current rules, the City can slap a boot on a car to which five outstanding parking tickets have been issued if all the fines are more than 30 days overdue. The ordinance would have lowered that number to three.
As each proposed ordinance came up on the agenda, silence resulted: no one spoke. After each failure, Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, moved such item be removed from the agenda, effectively preventing an easy return. By unanimous voice vote, the Committee voted for removal each time.
“That wasn’t pre-organized,” said Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, the Chair of the committee. He acknowledged the City faces budget pressures and tough decisions as to how to fill a budget hole. “It isn’t going to be at the expense of our residents,” he said.
After the third proposed ordinance was read, the boot lowering, Ald. Rainey said she preferred an initiative to go after outstanding parking ticket fines. According to materials provided by staff, nearly $5 million in unpaid parking tickets is outstanding. Ald. Rainey proposed an amnesty program that would permit offenders to pay lower late fees and avoid the Boot if they pay fines within a certain time period. “After that, we might go to the boot after three,” she said, because those with tickets would then have had notice and the opportunity to pay up.
All told, the proposed increase in fines was projected to raise slightly more than $200,000 toward a $3.3 million deficit in the current budget. “And we’re talking about nickel-and-diming people for $200,000,” said Ald. Rainey. “Shame on us.”
At the City Council meeting, Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, pushed for at least an increase in the expired-meter fines. “I’m hopeful that group [A&PW Committee members] could reconsider that. I would like to focus on things that are hopefully in people’s control.” People can feed the meters or park in the City parking decks without two-hour limits and pay as they leave.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz noted, however, increased penalties are simply “not on the table” for this Council.