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Fox Catches LAZ Vehicles Without City Stickers?

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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.

Fox 32 aired an interesting investigative piece Wednesday night.

Reporter Dane Placko discovered that LAZ Parking, the operational partner of Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, has a fleet of vehicles which do not have any Chicago city vehicle stickers.

A nice "gotcha" moment right?

Well yes, and no and maybe.

The Geek had been tipped multiple times on the same topic. I made a some cursory looks into it, but didn't really see it as a huge issue. The problem? The way the municipal code is written. As far as I could tell, even without city stickers on their vehicles, LAZ was still operating their vehicles legally. Here's the municipal code.

3-56-020  License required.

It shall be unlawful for any motor vehicle owner residing within the city to use, or to cause or permit any of the owner's agents, employees, lessees, licensees or bailees, to use, any motor vehicle or any other vehicle upon the public ways of the city or upon any city-owned property, unless such vehicle is licensed as provided in this chapter...

You see, from my research, the entire LAZ fleet is leased.

In other words, they don't own the vehicles they're operating. And the registered owner's address is outside the city. In fact, from my research, many of the vehicles have out of state license plates. So, according to a strict reading of the law, these vehicles don't require a city sticker.

In addition, there's no language I could find within the parking meter concession agreement that requires CPM or LAZ to own their own vehicles or prevents them from leasing their vehicles from a source located outside Chicago.

One would understand why LAZ didn't think it needed city stickers for these vehicles--because the law specifically states they don't need to.

Being confused and curious, I wanted to find out more. So I got in contact with Kristine Williams, spokesperson for the City Clerk's office.

The way Williams explained it to me,  long term leased vehicles, based and operating within the city limits, are required to purchase a city sticker, according to the city's Law Department interpretation of the law.

"A person who leases a vehicle is usually responsible for purchasing a city sticker," says Williams.  "This is the VAST majority of the cases. It will read in the person's lease that they are responsible for complying with all local licensing (includes city stickers). More importantly, if your vehicle is principally garaged in the city for more than 30 days, you are responsible for purchasing a city sticker."

Of course, while all of this stuff makes a helluva lot of sense, how would LAZ, or anyone leasing a vehicle in Chicago, know this if it's not spelled out in the municipal code?

The Law Department seems to be inferring a lot of specific behavior out of very straight ahead legal language.

From a public relations point of view, LAZ would have been better served by purchasing city stickers for all their vehicles--even if they were leased. Considering this highly visible company is generating a lot of dough operating Chicago's parking meter system, it certainly doesn't look good for their vehicles not to be sporting a city sticker like all the rest of us.

I believe that was the main point of Placko's piece and I guess I buy that.

Since Fox 32 began looking into it, LAZ decided to purchase city stickers for their entire fleet.

But, in my opinion, it's easy to "interpret" the law to mean anything you wish. But this leads to problems and confusion.

If the city wants to end confusion on this issue, and make things perfectly clear on leased vehicles, the municipal code needs to be cleaned up and/or re-written.

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