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Aldermen Sign Off On Changes To City Fines And Fees To Help Low-Income Motorists

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The City Council has approved Mayor Lori Lightfoot's changes the city's fines and fees system, in an effort to ease the burden on low-income drivers who the mayor says too often end up bankrupt due to debts to the city.

"This is a very important day for residents all across the city. It's the first in a series of steps that will be taken to get people relief from the burden of fines and fees," Lightfoot said from the dais in the City Council chamber after aldermen voted 47-0 to approve a series of changes she proposed in July.

The changes include:

  • Ending the practice of automatically suspending driver's licenses for non-moving violations.
  • Reinstating the 15-day grace period to renew a city vehicle sticker before issuing a ticket, and the 30-day grace period to purchase a sticker before facing a penalty.
  • No longer doubling the $200 fine for not renewing a city vehicle sticker; the city currently doubles fines after 83 days.
  • Halting the practice of issuing multiple tickets on the same day or consecutive days for vehicle sticker violations.
  • Creating a six-month ticket payment plan open to every driver with unpaid fines, and granting more time to motorists facing financial hardship.
  • Allowing drivers whose cars have been booted for unpaid fines a 24-hour extension to either pay their fines in full or enter into a payment plan before their car is towed to the pound.

The mayor has said far too often low-income and minority drivers have their cars impounded, and sold for scrap, because they can't afford to pay their tickets and get their car out of the pound. She said many people who end up with their cars impounded then can't get to work to be able to pay off their debt.

"We are working hard to make sure that we relieve that burden, we give people their cars back, and we're giving them an opportunity to participate in the economy," she said.

Lightfoot also noted Cook County leads the nation in Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings, with many of those cases tied to unpaid debt to the city.

Although the city will be giving up millions of dollars in revenue from the penalties being eliminated or reduced, the mayor's office has said it expects the changes to be revenue neutral, by encouraging more drivers to pay tickets and fines if the penalties aren't as severe and it's easier to get on a payment plan.

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