It’s the sight that no driver wants to see: the dreaded parking ticket lodged under their windshield wiper.
So last spring when Paul Minnihan found one on his minivan — when it was parked on the street in front of his apartment in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood — he was confused.
His residential street does not require a permit parking sticker. But since his minivan serves as both a personal and work vehicle — and features his company logo on the side — it does require something called a “contractor parking placard.”
“I’ve never heard about this before," Minnihan said. "Nobody I know has ever heard about it."
According to the Chicago City Clerk’s office, Sections 9-64-170(a)(3) and (b)(3) of Chicago’s Municipal Code say that a contractor placard is required to be placed on the dashboard for “a contractor who is actually engaged in delivery, service or repair work at a particular address for a particular customer to park their vehicle within a reasonable distance of the address where such work is being performed.”
“I don't think it's fair to fine someone for something they don't know they're doing wrong," Minnihan added.
That’s because the contractor says there are no physical signs throughout city streets warning of the placard violation. And remember: he wasn’t doing work when he got his ticket. He was at home.
Another contractor, Michael, who is from Chicago, echoed the same sentiment after paying the $75 fine, then wrote to NBC 5 Responds.
“There are no signs anywhere in my neighborhood stating trucks can not be parked," he said.
But a spokesperson from the City Clerk’s office says the responsibility falls on the contractor or small business owner who drives a commercial vehicle. The spokesperson provided NBC 5 Responds with the following statement:
“Commercial vehicles are prohibited from parking on residential streets. When business owners inquire about permit parking, we provide them with the information regarding the free Contract Placard. This information is also available on our website."
But NBC 5 Responds has discovered that the city handed out 21,854 of these “No Contractor Placard” violation notices between Jan.1, 2019 and June 30, 2020, bringing $1.6 million dollars to the city coffers. So it appears that not many contractors have printed out the placard — assuming they ever knew they were required to in the first place.
“City of Chicago parking enforcement efforts are intended to prevent traffic congestion, enforce residential and commercial parking laws, and address safety concerns. It is the responsibility of all motorists to follow the parking laws or be subject to enforcement. Motorists who are issued a ticket have the right to contest it through the Administrative Hearing process,” said Kristen Cabanban, spokesperson for the city of Chicago's Finance Department.
So from now on, Minnihan said he has to fill out a new placard each and every day.
“I'll do what I have to do," he said. "It's annoying, but at least you know, I know, and I hope other people find out and take care of it."
But he feels an unknown parking violation just makes it harder for small business owners to stay afloat in the city.
“I just think sometimes it's a little hard for the small businesses to get a foot up. And really, this does not help,” the contractor said. "“It’s a big deal, this ticket.”