City may give 2 time violators the boot

CHICAGO Chicago aldermen are considering a proposal that would crackdown on drivers who have outstanding tickets from parking or red-light violations. If it passes, just two unpaid tickets would be enough to get the dreaded Denver boot.

The proposal is the toughest in the country. The mayor says the proposal -- introduced Wednesday at council -- recognizes weakening economic conditions are intensifying Chicago's $400 to 500-million budget shortfall.

"This is not Mayor Daley's debt, this is the people of Chicago. Now, they don't want their taxes to go up $48 million, do they? No," said Mayor Daley.

In Lakeview it isn't hard to find a string of vehicles cited for parking infractions. But the alderman recognizes how punitive booting cars after only two tickets might feel.

"This is an idea, and at first blush, it doesn't look fair, and of course I think we as a city want to make sure we are being as far as we can," said Alderman Tom Tunney, 44th Ward.

In 2002, Chicago lowered the threshold for booting from five tickets to three. In Boston and Los Angeles, cars get booted at five tickets. In Houston, the boots go on at three tickets. New York relies on towing.

"The answer is simple, don't park illegally and you won't get a ticket," said Alderman James Balcer, 11th Ward, who supports Daley's plan.

About 10-percent of the budget shortfall could be made up with the lower boot trigger.

"Do you think it really is punitive when in fact these tickets have been out there-- most tickets have been out there more than one year? When in fact the average amount that people owe is $250?" said Commissioner Bea Reyna-Hickey, Revenue Department.

Aldermen are expected to debate the issue for months.

"It is tough, but we are in tough economic times, and we don't want to go the route of raising property taxes, and we might as well collect the debt that's already owed to us to try to deal with that deficit," said Alderman Danny Solis, 25th Ward.

"You can get two tickets in one day, you may need to wait until you get paid to pay those tickets, you may be on a fixed income. So I think that two reduces the standard a little bit too drastically for residents that are already having difficulties meeting their expenses," said Alderman Freddrenna Lyle, 6th Ward.

Violations leading to booting would include both parking citations and red-light tickets. The mayor's proposal would make more than 208,000 more vehicles eligible for booting -- at least 3.5 times more than were booted last year.

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