Despite Lightfoot’s go-easy pledge, motorists still getting parking tickets for non-safety violations

The mayor said Chicago would stop ticketing, booting and towing illegally parked vehicles except for public safety reasons through April 30. Why, then, did one woman get three $70 tickets in a 24-hour period?

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A city of Chicago parking ticket

“Ticketing is continuing, but the emphasis is supposed to be limited to public safety reasons,” the mayor said Tuesday. “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.”

Sun-Times file

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Chicago would stop ticketing, booting and towing illegally parked vehicles except for public safety reasons through April 30 to give some measure of relief to people whose jobs and paychecks have been impacted by the coronavirus.

Why, then, is the city to continuing to ticket cars parked nowhere near fire hydrants or building entrances with absolutely no impact on public safety?

“Ticketing is continuing, but the emphasis is supposed to be limited to public safety reasons,” Lightfoot said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters.

“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 there is 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.

Scott Burnham, a spokesman for Chicago Parking Meters LLC, could not be reached for comment.

Motorists from across the city have accused Lightfoot of a bait-and-switch double-cross. They read the mayor’s go-easy offer as a reason not to feed the meters, only to find their windshields plastered with tickets.

One motorist, who used only her first name, said she parked her car near her fiance’s South Loop home and got her first ticket 26 minutes after Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order took effect at 5 p.m. Saturday. That was followed by two more $70 tickets.

“If there was just one ticket on the car, I’d be like, OK. But it felt like it was a trap. Three tickets in 24 hours is just ridiculous — especially when, in a business district, you’re ticketing Saturday night through Sunday morning and no businesses are open. What’s the justification for this?” the woman said.

“If you’re saying [violations with no impact on public safety are gonna be suspended and you’re giving three tickets in a 24-hour period, that’s a trap. You’re trapping people. I’m hoping they cancel those tickets. I’m gonna contest it either way. … There was no public safety concern where I was parked.”

The woman acknowledged she didn’t feed the meter. But she thought she didn’t need to. That’s how she read the city’s news release and news accounts of the mayor’s offer.

“I’ve since contacted the mayor’s office. I contacted the alderwoman. From what I understand, they’re going to take care of it. I don’t know what ‘take care of it’ means. But from what I understand, many people were in my position and have called to complain. I believe they’re gonna cancel those tickets. But I don’t know for sure,” the woman said.

Twitter and Facebook were filled with similar examples from angry motorists, some accompanied by photos of their parking tickets.

At 10 a.m. on March 20, Orphe Divounguy tweeted, “@chicagosmayor, why is the city of Chicago still giving out parking tickets when people are told to stay indoors? When should I move my car again? Where’s the relief and suspension of ticketing and fees for non-safety violations.”

Kristen Cabanban, a spokesperson for the city’s Office of Budget and Management, did not respond directly to a series of questions posed by the Sun-Times.

Instead, she issued a statement reiterating that Lightfoot has  “relaxed enforcement for certain types of violations including city stickers, expired plates, street sweeping and residential parking permit” violations.

“While we have reduced our workforce dedicated to parking meter enforcement, motorists are still required to pay for metered parking during this crisis,” Cabanban wrote.


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