Though they initially hesitated the measure, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White have now come around to a proposed crackdown on able-bodied drivers using disability placards and license plates to park for free in metered zones.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that legislation proposed by state Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park) has won the support of both Emanuel and White. May's proposal would create a two-tiered system for handicapped drivers so that free parking in metered zones in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois would only be extended to individuals who fit certain criteria, such as being wheelchair-bound or otherwise unable to put coins into or obtain tickets from parking meters or pay boxes.
(Scroll down to watch a report on the bill.)
May's proposal, which was unanimously approved by a state House transportation committee Wednesday, was praised by Karen Tamley, commissioner of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, for striking "a balance between protecting the needs of people with disabilities who cannot physically access the meters and working to reduce fraud and abuse of the program," the Sun-Times reports.
The city last fall announced that it would be more diligent in punishing motorists caught misusing their disability placards. Nevertheless, abuse has continued, even as meter cheaters face fines as high as $1,000, The Expired Meter notes.
Fox Chicago reports that only 700,000 people will be eligible for free parking if the new proposal is approved.
Last year, the city was billed $13.5 million by Chicago Parking Meters LLC, which signed a 75-year lease to operate the city's parking meters in 2008, for what the company considers to be lost revenue from disabled people parking for free at their meters as of early 2011.
May's proposal would also cut down on the amount of such bills going forward -- a timely consideration as the Sun-Times notes that another bill, covering new "lost revenue" through late last month, is expected to arrive at City Hall soon.
WATCH a report on the proposed handicapped parking crackdown: