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McHenry bullies parkers

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

McHenry bullies parkers

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
April 4, 2010

The City of McHenry is a big bully.

In this morning's Northwest Herald is an article about worries of the City of McHenry (Ill.) about collecting parking fines. They must be desperate for money.

On Monday night the McHenry City Council will consider jacking up the fine for parking violations (which ones? overnight on-street?) from $5.00 to $25.00, a 400% increase. The interest in this issue apparently stemmed from resident Mike Benedek's complaints about repeated overnight parking violations in his neighborhood, despite police ticketing.

Now don't get me wrong. Mike sounds like my kinda guy. Concerned citizen. Wants laws enforced. Expects to see habit-change through enforcement. Taking steps to get a problem corrected. I'm sure I'd like Mike. Maybe I'll even get to meet him one of these days.

We face a similar problem in Woodstock, although here the problem may be uneven parking enforcement. Some neighborhoods get papered with parking violation notices; others go relatively untouched.

What might McHenry (City) do? First consider its current schedule of fines. If the ticket is paid within 48 hours, the fine is $5. (That's too low.) If paid within 48-72 hours, the fine is $10. If paid after 72 hours, the fine is $50.

Here's the problem. The City is harshly penalizing the parking violator for not paying promptly, not for parking illegally. What if the resident is out-of-town? hospitalized? Is it constitutional to so sharply increase a fine for slow payment? Ethical?

This heavy-handed treatment by the City of McHenry is wrong. All its City Council has to do is increase the fine to $10.00 and direct the chief to order the officers to ticket every overnight parking violation that is not excused. (Cities often provide leeway, if a resident phones in a request, such as for out-of-town guests or driveway repairs. Officers should drive by to verify the request.)

Sticking it to slow-payers is not the answer, and residents should be up in arms over the exorbitant, usurious and extortion-rate surcharge for failing to make an almost-immediate payment of a fine.

How to treat the scofflaws? Simple. Prosecute. The court costs will more than cover expenses. And publicize the prosecution. And, if an increase to $10.00/violation doesn't solve the problem, go for $15.00. Doing it this way will not create a revolution fomented by the few occasional overnight parkers who make the mistake of violating such an insignificant law.

The article also mentions Crystal Lake, Algonquin and Woodstock. These cities can stand right alongside McHenry in the bully category, because they too substantially increases fines that are not paid on time. And all four of them get away with it, because residents are too complacent and do not pay close attention to what their elected representatives are doing.

Algonquin? An unpaid $25 fine goes up to $50, if paid after 10 days. (100% increase)
Crystal Lake? An unpaid $20 fine goes up to $50, if paid after 30 days. (150% increase)
Woodstock? An unpaid $10 fine goes up to $50, if paid after 30 days. (400% increase)

By the way, just what is the reason for an overnight on-street parking ban, anyway???

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