As luck would have it, I missed Mayor Daley's recently held budget hearings due to a personal emergency and because I was already scheduled to be out of town. So since I know all the local politicians read this newspaper and my column, I will give my testimony here, and they can give it or send it to the mayor. And if they like any of my ideas, those same politicians have my permission to use them to help solve the current multimillion-dollar budget shortfall:
1) I still want all city stickers to glow in the dark. Since all Chicagoans have to buy that darn thing, I don't want people who continue to register their cars in the suburbs to be able to park them on any city street overnight. Let's say from 2 a.m. until 6 a.m. If there is one guarantee Chicagoans should have, it's priority for overnight parking. Any visitor can go to a 24-hour currency exchange and buy a $5 permit (we could give a discount for weekly permits) and affix it to their car windshields. Those without the stickers should get a $200 parking ticket. This will eliminate those folks who continue to register their cars in the suburbs but live in the city. Plus those who work in Chicago and park on our streets for free can now contribute to our economy by buying an annual city sticker as well.
2) Since the city is so big on photo-enforcement of red light violations, why not authorize a sting for the hundreds of drivers who daily use the ramp from the northbound Dan Ryan to the Eisenhower and rather than line up, they drive up and cut in front? Not only is there a danger of a major traffic collision, they are crossing a solid white line. Add to that the danger created by cars stopping in the right lane as they try to cut into the left lane. Even worse, it's illegal to pass on the right which is what those drivers are doing. Drivers who truly want to exit onto Congress Parkway now have to squeeze around those stopped cars. I would suggest a $500 fine at the minimum. And judging from the numbers of drivers who practice that behavior, the city could earn over $500,000 in a single rush-hour period. Plus the violations would be handed out by police officers who use cameras to take the pictures.
3) Why not a special scratch-off lottery ticket to help out the Chicago schools, sold exclusively at Midway and O'Hare airports? Since travelers have to spend hours sitting around the airports before their flights take off, why not offer them the opportunity to invest in a Chicago student by buying a scratch-off ticket where 100 percent of the profits go directly to CPS? We can for once at least have one lottery ticket where the schools do benefit.
4) Lastly, it is time to crack down on all street vendors. Since the city started the process by picking on the people selling stuff for the Bud Billiken Parade, let's begin cracking down on all carts parked on the city sidewalks without a permit or a peddler's license. Our city sidewalks are paid for by taxpayers and anyone wanting to use them to establish their own business should be paying for the privilege.
One of the best things about the ideas that I have come up with is that they don't target Chicagoans in general. Who they do target are people using or abusing the system. We're in tough economic times and, as such, we need to look into a revenue stream from those who should be penalized rather than just picking on the easiest target.
If you agree with any of this, send this column to the Office of the Mayor, City Hall - 121 N. LaSalle, Room 507, Chicago, IL 60602. Tell Mayor Daley which feature listed above you support or if all of the above should be implemented to close the budget shortfall that he and his administration have created.
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