ROSELAND — Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed 2014 budget would increase, among other things, parking fines, and Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), chairman of the City Council's Transportation Committee, said some of those fines are too high and would largely affect residents in underserved communities.
"I understand that we have to get creative to plug this hole but it seems like our creativity is coming off the backs of the poor and middle class," Beale said. "Increasing rush-hour parking violations to $100 from $60 or storage fees for impounded cars to $20 from $10 is excessive."
The city is seeking ways to plug a $339 million budget gap. Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled his $8.7 billion 2014 budget proposal Wednesday. The budget includes increased parking and towing fines and taxes for cigarettes and amusement, such as cable TV.
Beale said raising the penalty for impounded vehicles is an additional hardship, since most cars impounded by the city are usually a result of being booted first. That often leads to a chain reaction for drivers, he said.
"When a car is booted, a person must pay for the boot, towing, pay off all parking tickets, and now we are going to charge them more for storage?" Beale said. "That would create a hardship for residents."
Emanuel also proposed hiking the cigarette tax by 75 cents per pack, a move Beale said would more than likely increase the number of loose cigarettes sold on the street.
"People living on the Far South Side are already going over to Indiana to buy their cigarettes and gas, and that number would increase with a tax hike," Beale said. "That means more people are going to be smuggling cigarettes over the border to sell on the street."
Beale downplayed a proposal by Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) that would require bike riders to pay an annual $25 license fee for their bikes and to take a one-hour safety class. Dowell said the plan would generate $10 million a year in revenue and help reduce accidents by riders.
"I think it is fair to say that the mayor wants to make Chicago more bike friendly and that's fine. But look at all the bike lanes installed with tax dollars," Beale said. "Riders have already contributed to reducing congestion on the street, so why make they pay more?"
A bump in the amusement tax to 6 percent from 4 percent not only applies to outdoor entertainment, such as attending a concert or sporting event, but also watching cable TV. And that has some South Side residents upset.
"Black folks don't go Downtown to plays or to watch the Bears. We like to stay home [especially during the winter] and watch TV," said Melvin Bufford, a 58-year-old painter in Englewood. "Cable bills are too high as it is and now the mayor wants folks to pay more to watch cable. He must be out his mind."
Ashburn resident Hasan Baker Sr. said he would get hit with the amusement tax either way because he attends plays and watches a lot of cable programming.
"This city is getting ridiculous. It's so messed up how Emanuel is going up on everything but walking down the street and breathing," said Baker, a 67-year-old retired Chicago Transit Authority bus driver. "Revenue, revenue, revenue. That's all the city thinks about nowadays. What about us common folks? We are paying way too much for cable and a whole lot of things just to say we live in Chicago."