CITY HALL — The city's Finance Committee approved stiffer fines for littering Friday, over public complaints that the ordinance gives too much discretion to police officers and uses "a sledgehammer to kill an ant."
"Many people are concerned cops will take advantage of this amendment," said Sel Dunlap, of the Lawndale Amachi Mentoring Program. Yet he quickly added that litter "certainly has a negative impact on economic development.
"We're all worth more clean," Dunlap said, advocating the "broken windows" approach to crime prevention suggested by Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.
"I want my community to look as clean as you do," Dunlap told Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke. "I don't necessarily agree with your politics, but you do wear a mean business suit."
Jeff Baker, of the Committee for a Better Chicago, warned that the ordinance placed too much in the discretion of the police officer, while the stiff fines "use a sledgehammer to kill an ant."
The range of fines for littering would go from $50-$200 to a minimum of $150 and a maximum of $1,500, depending on the ruling of a hearing. Where the original ordinance amendment, sponsored by Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st), called for cars to be impounded when trash is seen tossed from a car window, that was softened to put it at the "discretion" of a police officer.
"Do we know if $150 might work if only officers did their job and enforced the ordinance?" Baker said.
"We want our city to be clean. We want our neighborhoods to be clean," Brookins responded, saying the tough fines would act as a natural deterrent. "We want people to stop," he added. "I wish we didn't collect a dime."
Robert Johnson, of Clean Streets America, offered to raise millions of dollars through "green tickets" issued by mobile cars with dashboard cameras and drivers on the lookout for litterbugs. "One car on the road can create $1 million," he said, and offered to return to make his case for the program at a later council meeting.
The strengthened litter ordinance goes before the full City Council for final passage Wednesday.