City sticker amnesty program is first step to reforming Chicago’s regressive ticketing system

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To be honest, I usually don’t spend a lot of time worrying about perceived injustices to drivers. But as investigations by ProPublica and WBEZ have revealed, Chicago’s motorist ticketing system has disproportionately impacted Black and Latino residents, sending many people into a downward spiral of tickets, debt, license suspension, job loss, and bankruptcy. That’s something that all Chicagoans, including sustainable transportation advocates, should be concerned about.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot made a campaign promise to fix our city’s broken driver ticketing system. Today she took a step in following through with that pledge, announcing a city sticker amnesty program that can help keep minor bureaucratic violations from turning into major life crises for local residents.

The two-step program will give residents a chance to buy a city sticker with no late fees or back charges. Those in compliance by October 31 will have an opportunity to have their city sticker tickets forgiven at a later date.

“Today marks a fresh start and a historic first step for Chicago residents who have struggled to get from underneath the grip of crushing ticket debt,” said Lightfoot. “These reforms we are announcing in partnership with the ‘City Clerk Ana] Valencia offer more pathways to compliance, provide much needed ticket debt relief and builds on our investment in the overall economic health of our residents.”

“Our goal has always been to build a Chicago that works for all of our residents,” said Clerk Valencia. “When I started the Fines, Fees & Access Collaborative I knew that working in conjunction with community advocates and other City departments would lead to something historic. That’s why I’m so thrilled to announce the implementation of these reforms today, which represent a monumental step forward in creating a more equitable city that allows all of our residents to thrive.”

The city sticker debt relief reforms begin on Tuesday, October 1. Here’s the process:

Step One: purchase a city sticker during City Sticker Amnesty Month

From Tuesday, October 1 through Thursday, October 31 residents can purchase their city sticker with no back charges or late fees.

Beginning October 1, residents can also buy a Reduced Term Sticker, allowing them to purchase city stickers for a shorter period of time. Residents can take advantage of these options in person, at any of the three city clerk office locations, one of the four Department of Finance locations, at any Mobile City Halls or online at ChiCityClerk.com.

Step Two: Apply for City Sticker Ticket Debt Relief

After October’s amnesty month ends, phase two of the reforms will begin Friday, November 15 ,and take place through Sunday, December 15.  Residents in city sticker compliance by October 31 can apply to have at least three City Sticker tickets forgiven by going to www.Chicago.gov/citystickerdebtrelief.

The city sticker reform and other debt relief were facilitated by legislation passed by the City Council in September. The reforms were developed with input from the Fines, Fees & Access Collaborative, formed by Valencia in December 2018. The full report, “Advancing Equity: First Steps Towards Fines & Fees Reform in Chicago,” is available here.

In addition to the city sticker debt initiative, Lightfoot’s fines and fees reforms package calls for ending driver’s license suspensions for non-payment of non-moving and vehicle compliance violations; creating more accessible payment plans for motorists, and introducing boot reform policies for residents experiencing financial hardship. The legislation will will go into effect on a rolling basis through November.

To take advantage of City Sticker Amnesty Month, visit the city website, any city clerk or Department of Finance locations, or stop by one of several Mobile City Hall locations held during the month of October:

  • Wednesday, October 2, Taylor Lauridsen Park, 704 W. 42nd St., 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 5, George Washington High School, 3535 E. 114th St., 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 10, Broadway Armory, 5917 N. Broadway Ave., 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Friday, October 18, Austin Town Hall Park, 5610 W Lake St., 3 – 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 19, Foster Park, 1440 W. 84th St., 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 26, Douglas Park, 1401 S. Thompson Dr., 10 a.m.

Of course, in the long run, one of the best way to ensure that Black and Latino Chicagoans aren’t disproportionately impacted by motorist tickets is to improve transit, pedestrian, and bike access on the South and West sides, so that residents don’t have to be dependent on cars to get where they need to go.

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