In your pocket one more time
If you need proof that some of our elected officials live in a bubble, consider the proposed fine schedule for parking meter violations in Champaign.
City council members in Champaign may not think it's a big deal, but a tentative decision to jack fines for parking tickets through the roof is a real slap in the face.
After not increasing parking fines since 2007, council members went whole hog Tuesday night. After approving one freebie — a warning ticket for a first offense — council members approved escalating fines. A second parking ticket within 365 days carries a fine of $15, a third and fourth $25 and a fifth $35.
A fine of $15 is within the realm of reason. But $25 and $35 for a parking ticket?
This isn't Chicago, where outrageous fines for parking violations by municipal predators are commonplace, and it's hard to understand why such punitive numbers are needed here.
For starters, a parking meter violation is not a Class X felony. It's penny-ante stuff. Further, while some violations fall into the category of egregious, most people try to be reasonably vigilant about feeding the meters, and those who fall short are taking up spaces for hours at a time.
Council member Marci Dodds defended the increase, arguing that it's important to encourage motorists to come and go efficiently and making their parking spaces available for others. She insisted the fines are not intended to be punitive.
Well, whatever the intention, they are punitive. Fines of this nature for such a minor offense will not only be infuriating to people who can afford to pay them, but a real burden to those who cannot.
The council and the city administration seem not to realize that shows another, darker side of government — a willingness to take advantage of citizens to generate revenue. Whether we're talking red light cameras or steep parking fines, the goal seems to be to catch people engaging in violations so minor as to be meaningless and then gouge them for their audacity.
It's not a pretty sight. Indeed, it's the kind of thing that might even prompt Champaign's inexcusably lazy voters to participate in a municipal election.
Mayor Don Gerard and council members, with the exception of dissenter Karen Foster, need to re-think the fine schedule.
What's in place is clearly sufficient. A small increase is tolerable. But what they have in store for parking meter violators — even serial offenders — borders on obnoxiously unreasonable.