U. City Gets Really, Really Serious About Parking Tickets


This is how we do it in U. City, bitch. - FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/SOWELLMAN
  • flickr.com/photos/sowellman
  • This is how we do it in U. City, bitch.
Nearly two years ago, University City became aware of its reputation for laxity toward parking tickets -- and how much it had lost in revenue -- and decided to do something about it. The fines would increase. A computerized system would actually keep track of violations. And, as a true sign of its seriousness, the city was going to institute the Denver Boot.

The changes took a little longer to institute than the city initially planned, but now the new system is fully in place and car owners are feeling the wrath where it most hurts: in the wallet.

Yesterday Carly Wathon, an 18-year-old salesclerk at Morrell's, looked out the store window and saw a boot being affixed to the front wheel of her white Suzuki. She called up the U. City police station and learned that its removal would cost her $1,235.

Wathon's mother, Lorna Sutton, went down to the police station to negotiate.

"She's 18," Sutton says. "She makes $8 an hour, works 40 or 50 hours a week and is leaving for fashion design school in LA tomorrow and they want $1,235 in cash to get the car back. That is the car. I offered them $400, but they would not work with me."

Wathon has lost track of the number of tickets she's acquired in the nine months she's been working in the Loop. "I paid a lot of them," she says, "but I get one every other day. Sometimes I park in the free lot, but if I'm running late or something, I just park in front [of the store]."

Petree Eastman, the assistant to the city manager and architect of the new parking system, has little sympathy for Wathon.

"The ordinance has been in effect for quite some time," she points out. "We're just trying to get people to comply with parking rules and pay their fines on time. If someone has $1,000 in fines, they have tickets overdue for many, many weeks. We're doing exactly what we said we were going to do."
Under the new U. City parking regulations, the cost of a ticket doubles for every two weeks it goes unpaid. Four unpaid tickets warrent the boot. If the car's owner doesn't pay to get the boot removed within two days, the car gets towed.

Wathon says she was unaware of the consequences of unpaid tickets. "There was no notice or anything," she complains. "And the officer was really sharp with me. I'm being treated as a criminal. If I'd been caught smoking pot on the sidewalk or punched the cop in the face, I would get a lesser fine. One thousand dollars is way too much money. Five hundred is a lot, but small enough to say 'I'm stupid.'"

Update (September 16): Wathon's car is still booted, still outside Morrell's.

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