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The [Wednesday] Papers

I told you that storm was a doozy. The Tribune reports on its front page today - thank you very much - that northern Illinois saw 90,000 lightning strikes on Monday night. It usually takes six months for that many strikes to accumulate.

"There was no precedent for this," Tom Skilling told the Trib. "In every way imaginable, that storm last night was in its own league."

Of course, by "last night" he meant Monday night. Your daily newspaper: Yesterday's news tomorrow.


The storm produced three tornadoes, according to a brief buried inside the Sun-Times.

1. From Paul Mollica:
Did you notice that the Tuesday Sun-Times carried a great picture of the storm over Wrigley Field on the Sports page? The front page on Tuesday had a rather homely graphic about their series on violence in the neighborhoods. I noticed, on the way to work, that the paper was displayed backwards in a number of ST paper boxes.


Scoffing at You
The Tribune editorial board is incredibly wrong-headed in its editorial today defending the mayor's plan to make vehicles boot-eligible after just two parking tickets. The paper argues that city's system is so full of warnings and opportunities to object and payment plans that scofflaws are practically stealing taxpayers' money as it is.


Anyone who's tried to cope with the city's parking ticket adjudication system knows what a descent into hell it is.

First, penalties have become entirely unreasonable. For example, I just received notice in the mail that I twice violated a neighborhood parking permit restriction and now owe the city $120. What?

Yes, I parked my car one night outside the Beachwood Inn - just a few blocks from my home, I was coming from somewhere else - in a permit zone that rarely seems to be enforced. I walked home as I usually do, forgetting my car was there. I retrieved it two days later.

A couple weeks later I received a notice in the mail because apparently you don't get tickets on your windshield anymore. I was cited for a violation at 8 in the morning the day after I left my car there, and again the next day. Two tickets and - under the mayor's proposal - boot-eligible. Can you imagine? Is that really a $120 mistake? Was anyone hurt? After all, there was a lot of available parking. Did I somehow rip off taxpayers?

Of course, this violation was legit, if not petty. But over the years we've all had bogus violations that we either pay and consider the price of living in Chicago or fight with all our might against a bureaucracy beyond anything Kafka imagined.

For all the Tribune's wankering about notices of violation and notices of determination and "boot hearings" and the (limited) defenses you can use to contest a ticket, those of us who live in the real world - or at least in Chicago - know that half those notices never arrive and the other half arrive late, and that hearing officers are douchebags (here come the letters!) and the system is as rigid as the Trib editorial board's tight asses.

And then there are the red light cameras. I recently got hit with my first red light violation. I remembered the incident exactly. I was traveling at the exact speed limit - as confirmed by the video provided by the city - on a slick surface in routine daytime traffic when a light turned yellow as the car ahead of me went through the intersection. I could either continue through or hit my brakes, and with a car following closely behind me and a wet road, I applied my brakes lightly but went through the intersection. Halfway through the yellow turned to red and the camera snapped my photo.

Was that really a $100 crime against society?

And yes, Mr. Tribune, I contested the ticket online, pointing to the city's own video that I was actually driving quite conscientously. You could see my brake lights on as I went through the wet intersection.

"You'd think the aldermen would be furious that scofflaws are simply shifting that huge burden to city taxpayers," the Trib writes.

That makes no sense. This isn't money that is otherwise owed to the city. This is money the city is generating through its own desperate enforcement and panoply of rules. If nobody ever made a mistake and got a parking ticket, the city would find another way to fine us for hundreds of dollars a shot to make up the revenue. You know why? Because it can't make a budget the honest way - by directly raising taxes to fund government or cutting government services to match the taxes it raises. Instead, the mayor makes living in Chicago a series of dodges and weaves that invariably hurt the nobodies while the somebodies not only get rich off kinky contracts and ill-thought development deals, but free parking too. (sixth item)

Finally, I'm pretty sure the editorial was written by someone who doesn't live in the city. Here's the giveaway: "We know motorists feel gouged by the high costs of parking, of ramp parking taxes and of parking penalties in Chicago."

You know, I don't know from parking ramp taxes. That's the sort of thing a skinflint driving in from the suburbs worries about. Those of us who actually live here are tired of the inability to move freely about the city. You might as well ask for papers when traveling to another neighborhood for all the hassles permit parking presents. Meters that don't work, street cleaning restrictions that make no sense, tow zones that seem to come and go, city stickers, license stickers, visitor passes for chrissakes, and an alternative - the El - that doesn't get you to where you need to be nor when you need to be there, besides the fact that it might hurt you - it's enough to make you want to drive up to the Fifth Floor and do donuts in the mayor's office.

Show some humanity, Tribune.

Go, scofflaws, go!


1. From a faithful Beachwood reader with reason to remain anonymous:
Isn't it telling that tickets are paid not to a Department of Parking Enforcement or a Department of Serving and Protecting, but are required to be paid to the Department of Revenue?

2. From Dave Wischnowsky:
Every time I think I've figured out all possible ways the city can give me a parking ticket, they find a new way to stick it to me.

Tickets are a joke in this city. The city is literally printing money with them.

I blogged briefly yesterday morning about my latest ticket headache yesterday morning.

My street is now in the 383 Zone in Wrigleyville (I live near the Sheridan Red Line stop) and apparently has been since July, but I never received any notification in the mail about it.

All I recall was a questionnaire or a flyer either posted at my building or in the mail months and months ago asking if we wanted the street to be permit parking. I didn't, for the record.

Now, I need to apparently pay $115 to park on my own street. AND pay a ticket without ever having been notified.

3. From Matthew Harness:
Nothing gets me more incensed than Chicago parking laws. My worst experience (I've had many) was when I parked and then got booted on the 6600 north block of Sheridan. So I go to pay to get the boot off (which was a nightmarish exercise) and I come back to see a ticket stuck underneath my wiper. Why did I get a ticket, you ask? Because I couldn't move my car in time (i.e. the boot) for the 4-6 p.m. rush hour parking restriction.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Mmm, donuts.


Posted on August 6, 2008

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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