Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday extended until June 1 her decision to stop ticketing, booting and towing illegally parked vehicles — except for public safety reasons — to ease the burden on Chicagoans whose jobs and paychecks have been impacted by the coronavirus.
The temporary reprieve for motorists was to expire April 30, the same day Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s revised stay-at-home order is due to expire unless, as expected, it is extended once again.
The city’s new June 1 go-easy deadline will include a temporary suspension of late fees and defaults on payment plans for utility bills, parking and red light tickets, booting and other non-safety related violations.
There is no parking meter holiday. Motorists are still required to feed the meter boxes. But, City Hall will make no attempt to collect overdue debt and no interest will accumulate on existing payment plans. The ultimate penalty of booting vehicles has been suspended.
The mayor also provided another small measure of relief to businesses forced to close their doors during the statewide stay-at-home order.
She extended until June 1 the deadline for payment of a host of business taxes for the months of February, March and April. The deadline for payment of city taxes on everything from hotels, restaurants and amusements to parking, bottled water, ground transportation and check-out bags already had been extended for one month — until April 30.
The decision to extend the tax deadline came one day after Lightfoot appealed for another round of federal stimulus relief to pump “a lot more cash into the hands of small business so they can survive this and come out on the other side.”
She had already created a $100 Small Business Resiliency Loan Fund” to help Chicago businesses decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, motorists complained the city was continuing to ticket cars parked nowhere near fire hydrants or building entrances with absolutely no impact on public safety, in apparent defiance of the mayor’s go-easy order.
“Ticketing is continuing, but the emphasis is supposed to be limited to public safety reasons,” Lightfoot said then.
“It’s not free parking all over the city. I want to be clear about that. But what we said is, place the emphasis on cars or motorists who cause a public safety hazard.”
Lightfoot said then there was an obvious need to “continue to be in conversation” with Chicago Parking Meters LLC about “where the emphasis should be placed” to comply with her March 18 edict.
That’s the investment group that famously paid the city $1.15 billion over 75 years to lease the city’s 36,000 parking meters in exchange for the right to pocket meter revenues and be reimbursed by the city for meters taken out of service. It’s the parking meter deal Chicagoans love to hate.
“But members of the public should know this isn’t just free parking for the duration. Things like fire hydrants, blocking key entry to buildings. Things along that line, those are things where we want the emphasis to be placed not on expired meters. Although people still need to feed the meters,” Lightfoot said.
Motorists from across the city have accused Lightfoot of a bait-and-switch. They read the mayor’s go-easy offer as a reason not to feed the meters, only to find their windshields plastered with tickets.
Scott Burnham, a spokesman for Chicago Parking Meters LLC, subsequently told the Sun-Times the company was not responsible for issuing tickets during the pandemic.
None of the non-safety-related parking tickets that motorists have complained about have been “dismissed or non-suited” by the city, officials said.
A City Hall press release announcing the extended reprieve highlighted the extended tax deadline for struggling businesses.
“Our businesses are hurting. ... So many have had to reduce hours or change their service delivery model to stay afloat during this unprecedented crisis,” Lightfoot was quoted as saying.
“We will continue to look for ways we can support them — whether it’s helping them to pay rent, meet payroll or address other more urgent needs that will sustain their livelihood.”