State Lawmaker Wants To Abolish Free Parking For Disabled

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Amid allegations of widespread cheating, a state lawmaker wants to take away most free parking for the disabled.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, a series this week in the Chicago Sun-Times exposed how many able-bodied drivers are scamming the system by using fake, borrowed or even stolen handicap placards to park all day at metered spaces without paying anything.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

Now, state Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park), who is retiring at the end of her current term, is proposing most disabled drivers lose their free parking privileges.

She tells the Sun-Times the only exceptions should be for those who are truly unable to feed the curbside pay boxes, or who meet certain low-income standards.

The city would not get any money from the money that disabled drivers would be required to feed into parking meters, as all parking meter revenue goes to the private company that runs the city’s parking meter system. The city would only get money from violations handed out to disabled drivers who failed to pay the required meter fees.

In 2008, the city entered a 75-year, $1.15 billion lease with Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, a firm organized by Morgan Stanley, to privatize the collection of funds at meters.

In addition to jacking up rates and replacing the old parking meters with electronic pay boxes, the privatization deal also did away with free holiday parking and most free Sunday parking.

The parking meter deal has since been roundly criticized as a bad deal for the city and a bad deal for those who have to park here.

Free parking at meters for the disabled originated at a time when buses and trains were not accessible for the disabled, and coin-only parking meters had to be fed constantly, the Sun-Times pointed out.

The Sun-Times’ investigation this week found that there is one disabled placard in use for every 13 passenger vehicles in Cook County, and the system is widely abused.

The newspaper had retired Chicago Police Lt. Robert Angone stake out several areas in the South Loop and other parts of the city and watch for abuse. He found 82 incidences of people who appeared to be able-bodied parking their cars for free using the placards.

In the compact area bounded by Van Buren Street, Roosevelt Road, Desplaines Street and Canal Street, up to 60 cars were parked for free with handicap placards each day in September and October, the Sun-Times reported.

On Wednesday, the same day May issued her suggestion, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for a crackdown on abuse of handicap placards.

Under a proposed ordinance, the City would increase fines and authorize police to impound vehicles as an additional penalty for using fraudulent placards or misusing someone else’s placard.

Specifically, the ordinance would penalize violators who display a false, stolen or altered disability placard. They would be fined $500 to $1,000.

Also, any authorized owner of a disability placard who allows another person to use the placard illegally would be subject to a $200 fine.

  • Joe

    Like public aid, what started out as a way to help is widlely abused and mostly unnecessary.

  • Chuck

    Is the stake out guy a doctor. You don’t have to look disabled to be so. Have the Chicago police check these drivers out. The fines alone will be enough to pay them.

    • Kimberly

      Chuck, you actually make a very good and valid point. Some people can have respiratory issues that prevent them from walking far distances…not that I’m making excuses because I used to feel the way that so many people felt (people are always trying to get over on the system), but just feel more information is needed before ASSumptions began being made.

    • Bob Angone Ret. CPD LT.

      Chuck, no I am not a doctor but I do know enough to know that a person who is dead is not using thier handicap placard, I also know the difference between a male and a female,I also am capable of knowing the Difference between a thirty year old and a person who is eighty. Wise up and admit the problem is there.

      • Jim Hamilton

        Not Denying that theres a problem but go after the real bad guys not the disabled community.
        Isn’t it funny after all those dead people can vote for your left wing democrats and use their voters ballot, but you wont let them use their parking placards. what a bunch of hypocrites lol. Now you don’t deny theres a problem there.

      • Jim Hamilton

        Yeah well the article didn’t say dead people are using the permits it says you made a judgement based on appearance if you have a prob with it then go cry to the editor.

        Stick to the article Bob

  • iris

    I did not know that you could park in metered parking spaces. I thought these placards are for disabled people to park in assigned spaces like grocery stores, doctor offices or restaurants. That’s a shame. I have seen able bodied people get out of their cars, hang the placard and run into a store.

  • Bob Angone

    While I am at it, Rep Karen May is a very courageous person and the first one I might add who is willing to see the problem for what it is. Massive abuse that is just going to escalate past the point of clear thinking. As the parking rates in Chicago rise so will the amount of people willing to scam the system. Shame for some people is not an aquired emotion. It needs to see the light od day.

    • Jim Hamilton

      Rep karen May is not worried about the problem, this is about revenue making real Disabled people pay for parking if they wanted to clean up the cheats all they have to do is enforce the laws that are already on the books

  • Hamburglar

    Good, it’s about time to go after the abuse. I am amazed with the number of cars parked downtown with disabled placards one after another.

  • Gabe

    The same people that don’t need these placards also don’t need the handicap signs in front of there homes. It’s ridiculous . I can’t park on my block because there’s 10 of them on my block that they never ever use and just take space. Your entitled to one if you need it and use it.

  • Jim Hamilton

    When did paying parking meters become based on income did I miss something or Is the Sun Times just trying to spearhead some kind of B.S. Who owns the private business that collect the the monies and if none of the money collect from disabled goes to the city then why even collect it? Sounds like the Sun Times and Karen May are trying to punish the real disabled along with the Cheats. By taking away from the real handicap persons free parking most disabled people are on a fixed income regardless.

  • Jim Hamilton

    found 82 incidences of people who appeared to be able-bodied parking their cars for free using the placards.

    Wow this guy is good he didn’t even have to get the number off the placard and call into the state to see if it is valid or who it is registered to, he can tell by their appearance. Good one Karen May and Sun Times lets judge books by their cover.

    This story is just like the investigation they spearheaded it has no substance.
    I wonder if he can detect cancer and aids as well

  • Roberta Waker

    I agree that disability placards are abused, BUT sometimes people who really need them don’t look like death warmed over. There are cancer patients and people with breathing problems and rheumatoid arthritis that can’t walk the required 200 feet, so they qualify for and deserve a placard. Maybe they should consider mounting a photo on the placard like they use for a driver’s license. Bet that would cut down on the abuse substantially and a $2,500 fine wouldn’t hurt either.

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