City council poised to raise fines for registering cars in burbs

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A City Council committee agreed Wednesday to crack the whip on motorists and companies that register their vehicles in the suburbs to avoid paying Chicago’s higher city sticker fees and insurance rates.

The proposed ordinance championed by City Clerk Susana Mendoza and advanced by the License Committee would raise the minimum fine from $200 to $300 and double the maximum fine — to $1,000 — for keeping a car or truck in the city and registering it in the suburbs.

The higher penalty comes at a time when the city clerk’s office is in the process of transitioning Chicago to year-round city sticker sales to reduce long lines and waiting times.

“When we doubled the penalties for people who are not in compliance a few years ago, this part of the code was inadvertently not touched — and it should have been,” Mendoza said.

“It really should be more expensive of a ticket when you’re trying to purposely cheat the city than when you may have just forgotten to buy your sticker or couldn’t afford it that month and said, `I’ll play the odds and maybe buy it next month.’ “

Mendoza noted that people who move to Chicago get a 30-day grace period before being required to purchase a city sticker. Newcomers are not the target of Wednesday’s crackdown, she said.

“This is targeting people that we know have lived in the city for a long time. We get people calling our office all time . . . asking [us] to go out and issue tickets to people who the neighbors have complained about in a huge way, saying, `My neighbor has lived here for 18 years, has a bumper sticker on their car that says, `My kid’s an honor roll student at Walter Payton High School,’ yet their license plate is registered in Wisconsin, so they never buy a city sticker,” she said.

At the request of Southwest Side Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), the License Committee also agreed to impose fines ranging from $500-to-$1,000 against tow truck companies that jack up their fees by towing a huge number of illegally-parked cars around the corner or a few short blocks instead of taking them one-by-one to their storage lot far away. It’s a shady practice known as “staging.”

The measure is expected to be voted on by the full city council at next week’s meeting.

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