Lightfoot Announces Overhaul of Chicago's Fines, Fees Structure - NBC Chicago
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Lightfoot Announces Overhaul of Chicago's Fines, Fees Structure

"We're here today because of Chicago's reliance on fines and the penalties for its revenue and the harm it's done to families and communities in our economy," Lightfoot said.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Lightfoot Announces Overhaul of Chicago's Fines, Fees Structure

    Mayor Lori Lightfoot and City Clerk Anna Valencia on Tuesday announced an overhaul to Chicago's method of collecting fines and fees that disproportionately affects the city's low-income neighborhoods. NBC 5's Mary Ann Ahern reports. (Published Tuesday, July 23, 2019)

    Mayor Lori Lightfoot and City Clerk Anna Valencia on Tuesday announced an overhaul to Chicago's method of collecting fines and fees that disproportionately affects the city's low-income neighborhoods. 

    "We're here today because of Chicago's reliance on fines and the penalties for its revenue and the harm it's done to families and communities in our economy," Lightfoot said.

    Lightfoot said revenue from parking tickets, red-light and speed-camera tickets, and building code violations "increased steadily" from $257.5 million in 2008 to $344.9 million in 2017, which accounted for more than 9 percent of 2017 revenue.

    Vehicle tickets alone account for $260 million in revenue, Lightfoot said, noting low-income families are impacted the most, leaving them "one bill or one mistake away from crushing debt."

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    "We owe it to Chicago's residents to change that reality that is hurting so many people," she said.

    WBEZ radio and ProPublica Illinois have detailed the ticketing controversy for more than six months, detailing the nightmare for some residents as penalties often snowball, forcing bankruptcy in some cases.

    ProPublica Illinois also revealed that eight of the 10 zip codes with the most ticket debt were mostly African-American neighborhoods.

    "Of course actions should have consequences," Lightfoot said. "We all know that. But mistakes should never result in financial catastrophe."

    Lightfoot said she plans to introduce legislation at this week's City Council meeting focused on payment plan reform, reduction to city sticker penalties and tickets, and ending drivers license suspensions for non driving violations.

    Lightfoot said she no longer wants city sticker tickets to double from $200 to $400 for failure to purchase within the time limit.

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    She also aims to "reinstate the 15-day grace period for City Sticker tickets after expiration, and there will no longer be same-day or consecutive day ticketing for compliance violations."

    City Sticker tickets will be capped at $250 for late failure to pay on time, she said.

    Lightfoot also introduced a six-month payment plan with no late fees by signing up before the ticket doubles.

    "By creating a 6-month payment plan for all, lowering down payments and allowing more time to pay for persons experiencing hardship, the City will ensure pathways to compliance for paying tickets," she said. 

    The "Denver boot" was included in listed reforms, as well. Lightfoot noted everyone "will be able to request a 24-hour extension to pay their fines in full or get on a payment plan after being booted. The reformed payment plans will also make it easier for low-income individuals to redeem their car after it’s been booted."

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