CITY HALL — A proposal to greatly increase fines for littering and even allow for vehicles to be impounded was put off by the Finance Committee Monday.
The proposal to increase the maximum fine for littering to $1,500 was held for additional consideration, pending reports from the Police and Law departments.
"There was some initial apprehension potentially from the Police Department," said lead sponsor Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st), adding that police were leery of how impounding cars for litter violations would work logistically. "I all along expected that the ordinance would be tweaked somewhat."
For now, however, Brookins was sticking to his original proposal — which imposed the potential of high fines for all littering and impounding of vehicles when trash was thrown from a car — and hoped to push the item onto next month's City Council agenda. He said the core aims of the ordinance remained unchanged: "We want people to stop, and we need to get your attention."
Sel Dunlap, community research director for the Lawndale Amachi Mentoring Program, endorsed that in testimony before the committee.
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) warned, "We have to be careful of the extent of the penalties." He favored "a philosophy of cleaning up across the city whether or not we have penalties."
Jeff Baker, president of the Committee for a Better Chicago, warned of the potential for police abuse and said the current fine of $200 for littering should be a sufficient deterrent.
"Perhaps we should turn our focus to enforcing what is already on the books," Baker said. "It hasn't been tried. They are not writing tickets for littering."
Baker said the only excuse for hiking fines and impounding vehicles would be if there were repeat offenders littering again and again after being ticketed.
"I have yet to see that," Baker said. "It doesn't take $1,500, and it doesn't take taking away people's vehicles. I think it's overkill and it's hurtful to the black community."
While he acknowledged the reality of African-Americans being stopped for "driving while black," Brookins said the "abundance of trash" in his neighborhood was testimony to how the litter fine needed to be increased. He said the ordinance did not alter the definition of littering, which included discarding cigarette butts and even ashes.
"I want our community to look as good as you look," Dunlap said to Ald. Edward Burke (14th), the Finance Committee chairman known for his sharp suits.
"Thanks for your kind words about my cleanliness," Burke said before tabling the proposed ordinance pending the police and law reports.