Saturday, November 13, 2004

Chicago Aldermen kind of maybe possibly beginning to grow backbones

The Tribune reports same mild, mild anger among members of the Chicago Rubber Stamp about the city's budget and the corruption investigating du jour. From today's Chicago Tribune:
    Aldermen called for changes in the city's vehicle-towing program Frida as the City Council began scrutinizing the long list of tax and fee increases in Mayor Richard Daley's $5.1 billion budget proposal for 2005. Ald. Shirley Coleman (16th) said the city should give vehicle owners more than 15 days to retrieve cars that were towed. "It's just unfair, and it's a vicious cycle, and somewhere it needs to stop," said Coleman....
Calling the city's towing unfair is a massive understatement. Calling it theft is probably more accurate. Basically, the city tows cars and impounds them, demanding as much as $1,000 from the owners. If the car isn't picked up by the owner in just a few days, the car, regardless of condition, is sold as scrap metal for about $125 to a politically connected towing company that turns around and sells the car on the market for its Blue Book, sometimes as much as $13,000. The victims of this scam lose their cars, they still have to pay parking tickets and impound fees, still have to pay their car loans, and they don't get any of the proceeds from the sale of their cars. The city get's $4.3 million from this practice, but pays the towing company $60 million in a city contract, plus whatever it makes from the sale of the cars, according to the Chicago Sun-Times article that brought this to the public eye. In reaction, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. called for a moratorium on the resale of impounded cars, calling the program a "racket." Ald. William Banks (36th) called for extending the 15-day deadline to 45 or 60 days and give profit made off the sale of vehicles back to the original owners, according to the Sun-Times. Aldermen were also almost mildly kind of raising eyebrows at Mayor Daley's outlandish budget proposal, which calls for $76.6 million in ridiculous fee increases. According to the Chicago Tribune, one fee increase for sidewalk cafes, particularly irked Ald. Tom Tunney (44th):
    "And it's a wonder why business is flat," said Tunney, himself a restaurant owner. "There's a tremendous disincentive to do business in Chicago."


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