CHICAGO — Mayor Rahm Emanuel has signed off on a proposed crackdown on litterbugs, but with a softened approach to trash thrown from vehicles.
The amended ordinance, sponsored by Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st), would still dramatically increase fines for littering, from a minimum of $150 to a maximum of $1,500, up from between $50 and $200.
But an added paragraph demanding the maximum fine be assessed for trash thrown from a vehicle, as well as calling for that vehicle to be impounded, would instead be altered to make that discretionary, not mandatory.
Brookins' office confirmed that language was being written into the ordinance to win passage.
"I am happy to join you and community leaders as we take another step to fight those who create unsafe and unhealthy neighborhoods," Emanuel said in a letter to Brookins, released by the Mayor's Office Monday. "That is why I welcome and support your ordinance to penalize those who throw litter onto our streets, and I look forward to working with community leaders throughout Chicago to pass an anti-littering ordinance in our city."
The ordinance was discussed in the Finance Committee in June, but stalled over the harsh call for impounding vehicles. It would now appear to be on track for passage at the next City Council meeting in September.
Enforcement of such "quality of life" ordinances has been cited as a crime deterrent in the "broken windows" philosophy advocated by Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. But Jeff Baker, president of the Committee for a Better Chicago, has argued it opens the door to excessive police enforcement.
"I fundamentally believe that this is an issue of personal responsibility and accountability, which also must be balanced by proportionality and fairness," Emanuel said in his letter, adding, "We all agree that trash belongs in a garbage can, not on the streets of Chicago."
The ordinance amendment would not change the definition of "litter," which includes food utensils and wrapping, liquid containers, candy and tobacco wrappers and "any other type of rubbish, garbage, refuse matter, article, thing or substance," which aldermen have previously stated includes dirty diapers and cigarette butts and ashes.