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Rookie alderman on the warpath about illegal tire dumping

Ald. Ray Lopez. | Sun-Times files

Rookie Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) has persuaded Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to send reinforcements to assist Chicago Police officers with gangs terrorizing Back of the Yards residents.

He has proposed offering $200 rebates from his $1.32 million-a-year aldermanic menu money to homeowners who agree to purchase exterior surveillance cameras linked to the city’s vast video network.

On Thursday, Lopez was back on the warpath about another problem that, he claims, is endangering Brighton Park and Back of the Yards residents and destroying their quality of life: illegal tire dumping.

“These illegal tire dumps at worst pose a grave danger to the health of our neighborhoods, and at best demonstrate a lack of respect for our communities . . . This kind of activity would never be allowed to persist in some other areas of the city, and we should not accept it on the Southwest Side,” Lopez was quoted as saying in a news release.

“Given the environmental challenges tires can pose, we should be taking every step possible to encourage responsible, environmentally-friendly disposal of tires in Chicago . . . I urge the city to take immediate steps to show they are taking this issue seriously.”

Lopez could not be reached for comment.

In the news release, he urged the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to slap tire shops using Southwest Side neighborhoods as a dumping ground with penalties already on the books: $1,500 for the first offense, vehicle impoundment and even jail time.

Lopez pointed to a section of the city’s municipal code that requires tire shops to provide disposal invoices, including the name and address of the licensed disposal facility, the number of tires disposed of, and the name and license number of the transporter.

The law is aimed at preventing tire dumping that can become a fire and environmental hazard as well as an eyesore.

Business Affairs and Consumer Protection spokesperson Mika Stambaugh had no immediate response to the alderman’s demand for a tire-dumping crackdown.

A former Southwest Airlines skycap, Lopez has fast become one of the more vocal members of the City Council.

During his first year in office, Lopez has railed against rising crime and pushed for Chicago to legalize video gaming and become a “no-kill” city where animals brought to shelters are euthanized only if they are terminally ill.

Earlier this month, the dog-loving Lopez used a parliamentary maneuver to derail a mayoral plan that would have slapped dog owners who fail to pick up after their pets even in their own backyards with fines ranging from $50 to $500.

Lopez warned then that the fines would inadvertently encourage landlords to stop renting to tenants with dogs. And that could lead to a surge in the number of dogs turned over to the already inundated city pound.

“Right now, pet owners face a number of discriminatory practices from landlords who may not want to take certain breeds or want to take animals at all,” Lopez said, denouncing the ordinance as a “money grab” from property owners.

“I understand concerns about piles of backyard poop. But we have laws on the books. And we have the ability through our ward supes to already ticket them. If we address it early, we don’t have 15 pounds of feces in a yard” for rats to feast on.

Lopez then offered a dire prediction for what will happen when the fine-bearing citations start flying.

“Families will have to make a very difficult decision when they try to move while renting whether or not to keep their family pet. That will force more animals into Animal Care and Control, force more animals to be surrendered and be counter-productive to our overall mission to become a more dog-friendly city,” he said.