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'Stop The Meters' Rally Opposes Lease Deal, New Meters

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The Parking Ticket Geek

The Geek is an idiot, who gets a lot of parking tickets, and knows how to fight back.

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While there's been plenty of individuals complaining, up until now, there's been no organized opposition of Chicago's parking meter lease deal and the drastic rate increases that have come along for the ride.

But Friday morning, the "Stop the Meters" rally, becomes the first organized protest of the meter lease deal and takes place in an unlikely part of the city--the South Chicago neighborhood.

Friday morning, starting at 10:15 AM, a group of citizens, local business owners and religious leaders will be bringing their concerns over the lease and the imminent threat of new meter installations in their neighborhood, to the doorstep of 10th Ward Alderman John Pope's office.

The "Stop The Meters" protest is being organized by Centro Comunitario Juan Diego, a community organization which provides social services, education, and health care information to a mainly Spanish speaking constituency.

The controversy began earlier this year, when the owners of four businesses in the 8800 block of S. Commercial Ave., went to Neil Bosanko, Executive Director of the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce, to see about the possibility of installing parking meters along a two block strip of Commercial Ave. from 87th St. to 89th St. The business owners were frustrated by the lack of turnover of parking spaces along this largely commercial strip of the street and felt it was negatively impacting their business.

"Retail businesses need in and out parking for customers," says Bosanko, a long time area resident and owner of the Polka Deli at 8753 S. Commercial. "If there is no parking for customers, you're strangling that concept. You're not allowing people to do their shopping. This is not a new issue, we've been working and strategizing this for five months."

Because new parking meters requests must be made by the local alderman, Bosanko went to Ald. Pope to push for the new meters.

As word of the potential new meters began spreading in this neighborhood, and all the controversies and negative press surrounding the parking meter lease deal, the meter rate hikes and the transition of the meters from city to private control, began worrying local business owners and motorists who live, shop or frequent this area.

Robert Garcia, Technology Coordinator for Centro Comunitario Juan Diego (CCJD) , began organizing a petition drive and talking to the 30 or so businesses located in this two block area. Garcia says he found very little support for installing new meters and in fact, according to him, most people were opposed to the idea.

"We hit the streets and started talking to people," said Garcia. "A lot of people are upset by the meters. They don't want them. We're upset about the (parking meter lease) deal in general, the rates are ridiculous. It just makes no sense."

But Garcia is also worried about the effect of even more meters at the new, higher rates and what he perceives as an increase in enforcement, will have on the poor that populate this part of the city.

"People around here are poor," sighed Garcia. "Tickets and increased (meter) rates are having an impact. We're (the CCJD) concerned because the people who use are services are mainly poor and the new meters may discourage them from coming to utilize our services."

Garcia and others presented Ald. Pope with a 1600 signature petition opposing the new meters. In addition, 21 of the 30 or so companies or organizations which operate in that two block strip of S. Commercial, signed on to the petition. Only three businesses refused to sign and a few business owners couldn't be reached to have the petition presented to them, according to Garcia. But, even with the petition and opposition of the majority of businesses on the street, Ald. Pope is still moving ahead with the meters according to Garcia.

"We talked to the Alderman, but he refused to do anything," explained Garcia. " We want to have this protest because he's (Pope) is not listening to us. Businesses who have meters in front of their stores have been complaining about costs and fear of tickets are scaring off customers."

But Bosanko has issues with the petition saying that many of the signers do not drive cars or are young people who don't reflect the true feelings of the businesses and the neighborhood. He also casts doubt on the veracity of the businesses who signed the petition, explaining that some of the businesses who signed the petition were also in support of the meters.

Garcia says many area people already do their shopping in Indiana, which is just a few minutes drive away, because they don't have to pay the 10.25% sales tax. Garcia feels the new meters will be just another reason for locals to take their business to Indiana.

"Some people say, if the new meters go in, they're not coming back to (shop) Commercial," Garcia says.

And despite the petition and the planned protest, Bosanko says plans for the meters are moving forward. "I'm not apologetic at all," says Bosanko. "The alderman and I are not backing down. We (the Chamber of Commerce) have an obligation to support business."

Fresh from distributing fliers around the South Chicago and East Side neighborhoods, Garcia is not sure how many people will show up for the protest he's helping organize. He estimates at least 60-70 people will show up, but his goal is for 100 people or more to come.

The protest will be held in front of Ald. Pope's ward office located at 3522 E. 106th Street.

Multiple calls to the Alderman Pope's office for comment, were not returned.

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