Cicero has fix for parking violations: Let trustees write the tickets

Town hopes to reduce chronic parking congestion by placing 7 more enforcement monitors on the street at no cost to taxpayer.
In some municipalities, trustees or aldermen might get a phone call to "fix" a parking ticket. Cicero is applying a slightly different twist on that practice: In about a week, town trustees will be able to write the tickets.
Town officials contend their motivation arises from civically responsible ideals: They want to reduce chronic parking congestion by placing seven more parking enforcement monitors on the street at no cost to taxpayers.
The unfortunate reality is that given Cicero's history of political shenanigans which includes the conviction of former Town President Betty Loren-Maltese for helping steal $12 million from town coffers the possibility for abuse might be an issue.
Perish the thought, said Town Collector Fran Reitz, who also serves as a trustee.
"We trustees, we live in town," said Reitz, a lifelong resident. "We drive around and we see the violations. Now, we don't have to stand by and watch. We can do something."
Although she and town spokesman Ray Hanania dismissed any suggestion of impropriety, Jeffrey Shaman, a DePaul University College of Law professor who focuses on federal and state constitutional law, found the concept ill-advised.
"Why should they have that kind of authority?" Shaman said. "It could be abused."
The potential for abuse might be limited, Shaman said, but "it just seems like a strange thing for trustees to do. It's certainly highly unusual."
Illinois Municipal League Executive Director Larry Frang said state law allows elected municipal officials to perform additional services as long as they don't receive additional compensation for those services. He said he was unaware of how common the practice of those officials writing tickets is.
Representatives from two western suburbs, Oak Park and Naperville, said their communities do not empower elected officials to issue parking tickets.
Before Cicero's town trustees can do so, they must be trained in how to write tickets, which will take a couple of hours in a conference room at Town Hall, Reitz said. The ordinance takes effect April 2, Hanania said.
Cicero, which has about 110,000 residents and 70,000 vehicles, has notorious parking problems, Reitz said. Every day, Town President Larry Dominick and other trustees field calls about illegal parking and contact Reitz and the Police Department to take action.
"It was getting redundant," she said. "I had to send out a code enforcement officer. It could take 20 minutes. It could take a half hour."
Often, the violator has driven off by the time a code enforcement officer arrives, Reitz said.
In a prepared statement, Dominick said the new ordinance will improve safety economically.
"It's a good idea because all of the members of the board spend a lot of their time monitoring the conditions in the town," he said. "They are aware of everything. This will help increase the response time and also crack down on motorists who violate parking and traffic laws but escape punishment."
The trustee parking monitors will focus on vehicles blocking crosswalks and fire hydrants and vehicles occupying handicapped spots illegally, Reitz said. Trustees will not write tickets for violations that include running stop lights and stop signs and speeding, she added.
The new ordinance comes about 10 months after the town was criticized for a related parking issue: towing cars parked on streets where street cleaning was occurring. The towing company was owned in part by the town attorney's father-in-law.
After residents protested, the town in September began issuing $50 parking tickets instead of towing first-time offenders.
Cicero resident Edmund Tervydis said he saw no cause for concern. Tervydis, who said he has lived in Cicero for 28 years, was in Cicero Town Hall on Thursday to pay his water bill.
"Doesn't look like they're taking on any more than they can handle," Tervydis said, "and they might lighten the load of the Police Department."
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