By, Block Club Chicago
Aldermen are set to consider Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposal to block the city from suspending driver’s licenses over unpaid parking tickets while reducing penalties and offering debt relief to the city’s poor.
The hearing at the City Council’s Finance Committee Monday comes 20 months after ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ first reported that the city’s punitive ticketing laws trapped thousands of mostly Black and low-income motorists in a cycle of debt that forced many into bankruptcy.
The reports from Pro Publica Illinois and WBEZ detailed how a 2011 decision by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to raise the price of tickets for not buying a vehicle sticker — already one of the costliest in the city — led to significantly more debt for motorists and little additional revenue.
The measure (O2019-5547) includes an array of reforms:
- A 30-day grace period to purchase a city sticker without incurring late fees
- A 15-day grace period to purchase a city sticker without incurring tickets
- Allowing drivers to request more time to pay tickets and avoid having their cars immobilized with a boot
- Allowing owners to get a boot removed from their car by paying the immobilization fee and entering into a payment plan with the city to resolve other fines
- Allowing the city discretion to decide whether to ask state officials to suspend a driver’s license if fines and fees are 45 days or more overdue, rather than requiring them to act
- The creation of four installment plans, including one designed for poor residents and another for those emerging from bankruptcy
- Allow all fines and fees to be waived if a driver purchases a city sticker during the late fee amnesty period.
“We know this hurts black and brown families the most,” Lightfoot said during a July news conference on the city’s West Side to announce the package. “It doesn’t make sense to punish people for not paying for their fines by taking away their ability to pay their fines.”
In addition, aldermen will weigh Lightfoot’s appointment (A2019-41) of Reshma Soni to serve as comptroller starting Monday, replacing Erin Keane, who was appointed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Soni, who had been the chief financial officer for the city’s Department of Aviation, must be confirmed by the full City Council Wednesday. Before joining the city, Soni served as Cook County’s comptroller, according to the mayor’s office.
“Reshma is an accomplished leader who is ready to implement strong financial controls to ensure quality accounting and reporting practices that will protect investments in our neighborhoods and help our city government work more efficiently for all our residents,” Lightfoot said in a statement.
In her previous position, Soni earned $153,000 annually, while Keane earned $170,000.
Soni said she would focus on “further streamlining reporting and accounting processes, administering medical benefits for our active and retired employees and enhancing customer service to support both our residents and the business community” as comptroller.
In other action, the Aviation Committee is set to meet at 1 p.m. Monday to weigh two items related to O’Hare and Midway airports.
Aldermen will consider an agreement (O2019-6520) with Alclear, LLC to check travelers’ identification documents as part of the Transportation Safety Administration’s pre-check program.
In addition, aldermen will weigh a proposal (O2019-6519) with Aero O’Hare Express LLC to expand the 515 Express Center Drive parking lot area at O’Hare Airport.
This article originally appeared in Block Club Chicago.