CITY HALL — An effort to hike the penalty for parking illegally in a private lot — and toughen the regulations for the firms who slap the boot on scofflaws' cars — stalled at City Hall.
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) introduced a measure in May that would have increased the fee drivers would have had to pay to remove the immobilization device from their wheels from $140 to $180 — but established a 10-minute grace period to give motorists a chance to escape the dreaded boot.
The measure had been revised to increase the fee to $170 — and to eliminate Moreno's proposed grace period — by the time it was considered Wednesday by the City Council Committee on License and Consumer Protection.
However, the changes did little to win the support of aldermen, who questioned if the fee increase was justified.
"I don't see where we need to increase this amount and give a boon to these guys," said 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack, the chairman of the council's progressive caucus. "There's no proof here that they need that increase. And based on the number of boots that we've heard about, it seems like the business is popping."
Under a 2015 law, aldermen can give permission for store owners to boot cars parked illegally on private property. Twenty-six of the city's 50 wards permit booting in private lots.
Barbara Gressel, a deputy commissioner of the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, urged aldermen to endorse the measure and send it to the full City Council for consideration. Instead, aldermen took no action on the proposal.
The 21 percent fee hike is "a fair compromise with the industry to achieve some of the more stringent consumer protections," Gressel said.
Four firms are licensed by the city to boot cars on private property. The proposal would have raised the cost of a business license to do that work from $250 to $1,000.
In addition, the proposal would have required firms to
• remove the boot at no charge if the owner comes back before they finish;
• notify city officials of each lot that they are paid to monitor and pay a $100 fee for each location;
• require their employees to wear uniforms and undergo training
• post signs with a phone number to a hotline staffed 24 hours a day to handle questions and complaints.
Ald. John Arena (45th) said he was concerned the cost of the additional regulations would be passed on to employees, and lower their wages.