Chicago aldermen are expected to pass Mayor Rahm Emanuel's $6.3 billion budget plan by a wide margin today.
Chicagoans who abide by city rules face higher fees for water, vehicle stickers and garage parking.
Get caught tampering with a water meter? You'll pay as much as $750 instead of just facing the prospect of having the spigot turned off.
Fail to cut your high weeds? Expect to pay up to $1,200 a day instead of $1,000, assuming the inspector is on the lookout.
Flee the cops in your car? It will cost $2,000 to get it out of the impound lot, twice as much as it does now.
The new mayor is counting on such bad behavior to balance his first spending plan, which anticipates racking up at least $26 million from increased fines.
The idea of hitting scofflaws harder is not a new approach — Mayor Richard Daley raised a host of fines in 2008, and before that he installed red-light cameras that have proved to be a cash cow for City Hall — but Emanuel has ramped up the practice as he tries to balance the books without hiking property or sales taxes.
Some aldermen might not like it, but it's not expected to derail Emanuel's carefully crafted $6.3 billion budget from passing the City Council by a wide margin Wednesday.
"Every time we sneeze, there's an increase in a fine. As we are trying to broaden our tax base, (residents) will be fighting all these nickel-and-dime increases across the board," said Ald. Robert Fioretti, 2nd. "All of these increases in fees are going to have a long-term impact on the direction of the city. It may be good for the budget, but it won't be good for citizens."
Emanuel argues that the city should "demand greater accountability by cracking down on those who put our communities at risk."
"We all share the goal of collecting what's owed to us. The more we collect, the less we have to cut," Emanuel said during his budget speech last month. "So, with this budget, we are sending an important message ... to everyone who has not paid their fair share: Ladies and gentlemen, the free ride is over."
The list of increased fines is long and encompasses a broad range of city life.
Many of them involve driving. Tickets for not feeding downtown meters will cost $60, a hike of $10. Fines for parking in a residential zone without a permit or improperly parking in a loading zone would be $75 — an increase of $15.
Penalties also will double for driving with a suspended or revoked license or driving while intoxicated. Tampering with a parking meter also will cost more. And drag racers will incur a new $1,000 fine.
"The mayor is using it to deter bad behavior," said Ald. Rick Munoz, 22nd. "If you maintain your property appropriately, you won't get fined. If you don't park illegally, you won't get a ticket. That's opposed to an across-the-board property tax, which hits everybody."
Raising so-called nuisance fines also is on tap. Illegal garbage dumping, excessive junk and poor lot maintenance fines will be $300 to $600, up from $250 to $500. Those found to be playing their car radios too loud will pay up to $750 instead of $500 — plus fees for towing and vehicle storage — after their cars are seized.
Those cited for illegally possessing spray paint under an anti-graffiti ordinance would pay a fine of up to $1,500, an increase from $750.
Ald. John Arena questioned hitting people with increased fines and fees that may not be collectible. Debtors already owe the city more than $749 million — $329 million of which comes from people who haven't paid parking and red-light camera tickets, according to the administration. The mayor's office anticipates recouping $33 million of those unpaid bills next year.
City budget with higher fines, fees expected to be approved today
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