CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot is planning a series of changes to the city’s ticketing policies, in what she calls “the first step in ending the practices of balancing the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it.”
The new policies are designed to end punitive enforcement practices that often helped push low-income drivers into bankruptcy for failing to pay parking tickets and resulted in them losing their car because they can’t afford to get it out of the city pound.
“It’s clear that this system disproportionately impacts low-income black and brown communities. We need every Chicagoan contributing to the economic vitality of the city. Chicago can’t afford to continue throwing people into the cycles of debt and poverty due to a few mistakes,” Lightfoot said. “It doesn’t make sense to punish people for not paying their fines by taking away their ability to earn a living and pay that fine back.”
Among the proposed changes the mayor will introduce to the City Council on Wednesday:
- Ending the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for non-moving violations.
- Reinstating the 15-day grace period to renew a city vehicle sticker before issuing a ticket.
- No longer doubling the $200 fine for not renewing a city vehicle sticker; the city currently doubles fines after 83 days.
- Halting the practice of issuing multiple tickets on the same day or consecutive days for vehicle sticker violations.
- Creating a six-month ticket payment plan open to every driver with unpaid fines, and granting more time to motorists facing financial hardship.
- Allowing drivers whose cars have been booted for unpaid fines a 24-hour extension to either pay their fines in full or enter into a payment plan before their car is towed to the pound.
“The bold reforms we’re announcing are designed to be the first step in ending the practices of balancing the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it,” the mayor said. “By adopting these reforms Chicago can provide people real pathways and not obstacles to pay their debt while also receiving revenue that may otherwise remain unpaid.”
The mayor said far too often low-income and minority drivers have their cars impounded, and sold for scrap, because they can’t afford to pay their tickets and get their car out of the pound. She said many people who end up with their cars impounded then can’t get to work to be able to pay off their debt.
“This is about giving people a real chance to get to work and keep a job,” she said.
Lightfoot predicted the city would not lose revenue because of the changes, saying making the system easier would encourage drivers to pay their tickets and other fines if the penalties aren’t as severe and it’s easier to get on a payment plan.