MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Chicago Alderman Proposes 'Super Ticket Writers' to Fill Budget Gap

Residents already face a stream of tax increases, largely to shore up pension funds.

Jovan JimenezJovan JimenezWhen Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked Chicago's aldermen for suggestions on how to close a nearly $260 million budget gap, Raymond Lopez responded with a proposal for each of the city's 50 wards to receive a "super ticket writer"—an officer dedicated to ticketing people for quality-of-life violations.

Since the Ferguson protests pushed police misconduct onto the national political stage, some policy makers have become more sensitive to the problems of treating policing as a form of revenue raising. But evidently not Lopez.

The Justice Department's investigation into Ferguson's policing practices found a criminal justice system largely designed to raise revenue, leading to systematic constitutional violations. Black Lives Matter's Campaign Zero has called for reducing police violence by ending such revenue-based policing. "Police should be working to keep people safe, not contributing to a system that profits from stopping, searching, ticketing, arresting and incarcerating people," the Campaign Zero website explains.

As the Chicago Sun-Times points out, Chicago has laws "that cover everything from home-sharing, illegal parking and panhandling to noise violations, street peddling, failing to shovel snow from the sidewalk in front of your home and operating a business without the proper license." Many of these laws are rarely enforced, but Lopez wants to change that.

His proposal calls for spending $4.5 million to train the 50 super ticket writers. He insists the program would pay for itself and then some, but he doesn't actually show his work. Along with all the other problems with the plan, it seems counterproductive to solve a budget gap caused in large part by the high cost of city employees by hiring yet more city employees.

The Sun-Times reports that in recent years Chicago residents have faced more than a $1 billion in tax hikes to fund public employees' pensions. Last year Emanuel levied a nearly 30 percent tax on water and sewer bills to raise revenue for the Municipal Employees Pension Fund; he now plans to ask City Council for a 28 percent increase in a monthly tax on phone bills, to fund the Laborers Pension fund.

"Acting on the laws we've created is a better way to generate revenue," Lopez told the Sun-Times. "The last thing any of us want to do is enact more fees, more tax increases." But if Lopez's proposal is adopted it will more than likely be an addition to the tax hikes in the pipeline, not a replacement. In any event, residents who feel nickel-and-dimed by tax increases aren't likely to appreciate a ticket from a cop any more.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    Jeebus, for $90k per for training, you could send them each to community college or vocational training, living expenses paid, and then they could get a real job and become taxpayers instead of moochers.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    Or, you know, let people keep the 4.5 million. But that's crazy talk.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    an officer dedicated to ticketing people for quality-of-life violations.

    If Chicago weren't such a silly place, such an officer would be required by logic to ticket him- or herself first and most of all.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    "that's one for you, one for me. One for you, two for me. One for you, three for me..."

  • D.D. Driver||

  • Chipper Morning, Mean Girl||

    Or he would disappear in a puff of logic.

  • colorblindkid||

    It costs $90,000 to train one person to write tickets?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    $89,000 of that is mandatory diversity training.

  • GeneralWeygand||

    +1

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    an officer dedicated to ticketing people for quality-of-life violations.

    I uh, yeah.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The don't have 50 of those yet? No wonder Chicago sucks ass. No one enforcing a better quality of life for everyone.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    I have a great idea for reducing the "budget gap" -- decrease spending. It's the old saw: "Make $1, spend $2, misery. Make $2, spend $1, happiness".

    We have become trapped into the notion that government spending, and therefore ever-escalating government spending, is and must be baked into our economy. If it seems to be, it certainly shouldn't be.

    And as far as I'm concerned, nothing that Black Lives Matter has to say on this or any other subject is worth a damn

  • CE||

    260 million dollars?
    The city of Chicago has 35,274 municipal employees, making an average of $88K per year.
    You could just lay off 3,000 of them (8.5 percent), or
    cut pay across the board by 8.5 percent and close the gap.

    No nuisance tickets needed.

  • Trollificus||

    Uhh...but that's less, doncha see?? Goes contrarywise to the rules of good government and all a-widdershins to the laws of economic reality (as decreed by the Party of the Permanent Ruling Junta of Cook County). "Less" money is not a recognized as a valid term in the Misnomra Arcanum Civil, either in reference to revenues or expenditures.

  • BYODB||

    I don't see an end to police being primarily revenue generators rather than working for the public safety any time soon. Especially in Bright Blue Bastions.


    The rich pay taxes, the poor pay fines (or go to jail).

  • Domestic Dissident||

    What's a "quality of life violation"? I'm guessing mostly things like jaywalking?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Selling loosies on the street. Noise. Wearing pants too tight, wearing pants too loose. Food trucks.

  • CE||

    Renting out your house on AirBnB and attracting cheapskates to Chicago.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Oh very much this. Limiting Uber and Lyft from giving people rides what need 'em.

  • GeneralWeygand||

    Littering, failure to pick up litter on state, local or federal gov't property, failure to not cry "fascist-racist!" when you see someone evade remuneration to federal, local and or state government, failure to not be on the dole....

  • GeneralWeygand||

    Failure to narc out neighbors for violating "no warmth from fire" during the winter, failure to narc out questioners of public school curricula, assault and battery of a criminal during an attempted crime (defending yourself is racist)

  • CE||

    260 million dollar deficit divided by 2.7 million Chicagoans = $96 per person, divided by 3 felonies per day = $32 per ticket. They'll have this paid off by tomorrow.

  • Lily Bulero||

    Why is it that headlines beginning with the phrase "Chicago alderman" rarely end up describing anything nice?

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online