City booting policy continues despite criticism

Jesse Abrams-morley

It might have been the most expensive newspaper ever.

After parking his car last month in the lot next to Burger King, 1740 Orrington Ave., Charles Fargo walked to the corner of Clark Street and Sherman Avenue to buy a Chicago Sun-Times, he said.

Before Fargo could return to eat lunch at Burger King, his car had been booted, with a $90 price tag attached.

“I had a coupon,” said Fargo, an Evanston resident. “I was going to go there for lunch.”

Fargo’s misfortune came after Evanston City Council voted 5-3 in April to allow businesses downtown to continue booting cars parked illegally on private property until April 1, 2003.

The vote renewed a policy that had been in effect for about six months. Evanston police use a separate booting program on public streets.

Downtown businesses can hire companies to boot the cars of people who are not patronizing their stores.

According to city law, cars cannot be booted during the first 10 minutes they are parked illegally on private property. Fargo contends that Burger King didn’t give him enough time.

“It only takes about three minutes to (get a paper and return),” Fargo said.

Peter Anand, assistant manager at Burger King, said he did not know about this specific incident but that normal procedures were being followed.

“We are allowing a 10-minute courtesy to all,” Anand said.

Ald. Arthur Newman (1st), who supported the booting proposal, said Fargo’s is a case of a person breaking the law – and paying for it.

“If he’s gone and does the same thing they could have a tow truck there,” Newman said. “You don’t have the right to park on someone else’s property.”

Ald. Stephen Engelman (7th) said the city should not be granting businesses the right to keep cars on their property.

“I do not believe that a person’s car should be taken hostage and held up for ransom,” said Engelman, who voted against the ordinance.

Engelman said booted cars cannot leave the lot so there is no chance for drivers to calm down before retrieving their cars.

“Tempers flaring is not good,” Engelman said.

Newman was joined by Alds. Melissa Wynne (3rd), Steven Bernstein (4th), Edmund Moran (6th)and Gene Feldman (9th) in voting to allow booting. Engelman and Alds. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) and Ann Rainey (8th) voted against it.

Anand said Burger King’s booting policy is working.

“This was designed to prevent the abuse that’s going on,” he said. “It’s helped a lot.”

Fargo wrote “quite a letter” to the council about his booting experience, the city clerk said. Fargo said he will never go to Burger King again and believes that others are suffering from the booting law.

“I think I’m not the first person who’s been taken advantage of that way,” he said.