Chicago looks to add 50 “super” ticket writers to increase revenues
As Chicago faces a budget gap approaching $260 million, one alderman suggests more ticketing to close the shortfall.
Just one month after celebrating a city budget shortfall of “only” $114.2 million, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had to revise his numbers to more accurately convey the financial disaster facing the city. The official budget gap now stands at nearly $260 million.
One method floated to close that gap? “Super” ticket writers.
Alderman Raymond Lopez, 15th Ward, has suggested closing the gap by hiring more ticket writers to bring in more revenue. Of course, this would require the city spending more money, approximately $4.5 million upfront, to bring these ticket writers online.
These new ticket writers would be tasked with enforcing quality-of-life violations in each of the 50 wards. That means more revenue for the city from enforcing laws on everything from noise violations to not shoveling the sidewalk after a snowstorm.
“One of the things expressed to me by my residents time and again is, `Why don’t we enforce the laws on the books? Why don’t we hold individuals in our neighborhoods who flagrantly disobey the law, refuse to pay stickers that apply to everyone else accountable,’” said Lopez, according to the Sun-Times.
City Hall has been known to pass laws with fines attached to them and fail to enforce those laws due to a lack of resources. While various positions have ticket writing ability, parking enforcement aides are most closely related to the “super ticket writers.” Their salaries range from $36,296 to $64,392. Under Lopez’s proposal, the “super ticket writers” would cost taxpayers about $90,000 annually per employee.
Chicago’s thirst for fee revenue does not come without consequences. A ProPublica investigation into Chicago’s boom in bankruptcies revealed tickets as a main driver behind the rapid increase in bankruptcy filings in predominantly black neighborhoods across the city.
Chicago residents have had to face massive increases in property taxes in recent years and pay some of the highest sales taxes in the nation in addition to more than 30 other taxes and fees. And of course, Chicagoans are currently fighting the wildly unpopular Cook County sweetened beverage tax. This is a pattern of relying on regressive taxes and fees to bail out governments’ inability to properly budget – rather than tackling spending reforms head on.
Instead of continuing to hit up tapped-out taxpayers, Chicago should look to enact meaningful reforms such as introducing a 401(k)-style alternative to failing city pension funds, addressing city spending, and eliminating tax increment financing districts. Simply writing more tickets hurts the most vulnerable populations in the city and may ultimately lead to further problems. Until the city enacts true reforms, residents will continue to live under the constant threat of increased taxes and more tickets to bail out failing government.