Boot com­pro­mise deal with $ 30 fee in­crease stalls

Price- goug­ing con­cerns shelve 21% in­crease

Chicago Sun-Times - - ANOTHER VIEW | POLITICS - BY FRAN SPIEL­MAN City Hall Re­porter Email: fspiel­man@ suntimes. com Twit­ter: @fspiel­man

Price- goug­ing con­cerns on Wed­nes­day de­railed a plan to em­power pri­vate boot­ers roam­ing free in more than half of Chicago’s 50 wards to raise boot re­moval fees by $ 30 in ex­change for stiffer reg­u­la­tions.

The trade- off was cham­pi­oned by Ald. Proco Joe Moreno ( 1st) and em­braced by the Emanuel ad­min­is­tra­tion to bol­ster con­sumer pro­tec­tion in re­sponse to chronic com­plaints and con­fronta­tions over the years.

Those pro­tec­tions would re­quire the city’s four pri­vate boot­ers to:

Re­move the boot at no charge if the owner re­turns to the lot be­fore the boot is fully ap­plied.

Reg­is­ter each lo­ca­tion where the com­pany is op­er­at­ing and pay a $ 100 fee for each site.

Put their em­ploy­ees in uni­forms and train them on boot in­stal­la­tion and re­moval.

Of­fer a 24- hour hot­line ac­ces­si­ble to con­sumers with ques­tions and com­plaints.

“While a pro­vi­sion to in­crease the re­moval fee [ from $ 140 to $ 170] is in­cluded, we feel this is a fair com­pro­mise with the in­dus­try to achieve some of the more strin­gent con­sumer pro­tec­tions,” said Barbara Gres­sel, deputy com­mis­sioner of the city’s Depart­ment of Busi­ness Af­fairs and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion.

Al­der­men did not agree. Their con­cerns about the 21 per­cent in­crease prompted the City Council’s Com­mit­tee on Li­cense and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion to shelve the or­di­nance for now.

“I don’t see where we need to in­crease this amount — and give a boon to these guys,” said Ald. Scott Wagues­pack ( 32nd). “There’s no proof here that they need that in­crease. And based on the num­ber of boots that we’ve heard about, it seems like the busi­ness is pop­ping.”

Ald. John Arena ( 45th) ques­tioned whether the cost of the train­ing, uni­forms and back­ground checks would be passed along to em­ploy­ees who are “pretty much min­i­mumwage” work­ers.

“If they’re tak­ing that cost on, I’d be more sym­pa­thetic to the in­crease in the fee. But how much are [ they] putting onto the em­ployee?” Arena said.

Michael Den­i­gras, owner of In­no­va­tive Park­ing So­lu­tions, por­trayed the $ 30 in­crease as a drop in the bucket com­pared with his sky- high costs. He de­nied he’s in line for a wind­fall.

“I have to pay them way over the min­i­mum wage. No­body wants to work for me when they can work for McDon­ald’s at min­i­mum wage and not take that abuse,” Den­i­gras said.

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Al­der­men shelved a plan to hike fees for pri­vate boot­ers.

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