Evanston considers Web to crack down on parking scofflaws

Dalia Naamani-Goldman

After collecting nearly $1.3 million in unpaid debts from residents last year, Evanston now is considering whether to publish online a list of residents who still have not paid up.

The Scofflaw Payment Program, now in its second year, was created to get residents to pay fines for overdue parking tickets and ordinance violations.

Northwestern students hold part of that debt. Rohan Patel, a Music senior, racked up upwards of $700 in parking tickets over the past two-and-a-half years.

He said he delayed paying until he returned home to Indiana to find a court date awaiting him.

“I realize now that they are cracking down,” he said.

He has since paid the city in full.

Wayne Moran, head of the administrative hearings division, began the program last year.

“I was trying to think of a way to get people to pay without the long, complicated process of taking them to court,” Moran said. “It was kind of like a light bulb thing.”

Residents with overdue fines are denied city services other than garbage collection, 911, and police and fire protection. Those with fines cannot receive vehicle registration stickers, pet licenses, parking and building permits, or beach tokens. They also cannot sell property in the city.

Collected fines go into the general fund, which pays for the operations of the city. Interest is not charged on the debts, Moran said.

Whether or not the city will publish the names of those who must pay has not been decided, Moran said. Ultimately, the decision rests with both elected officials and city staff.

“It’s adverse exposure,” Moran said. “We don’t know whether we want to go that far at this time.”

Evanston City Council is currently focused on passing the 2003-04 proposed budget, he said, so the scofflaw decision likely will not be made for at least a couple of months.

Moran said about 300 names are currently on the scofflaw list, some of whom are NU students with repeat parking violations.

Nick Curry, a fifth-year Music graduate student, last year paid off almost $600 of parking tickets. Like Patel, he was spurred to pay up by a court notice sent to his parents’ home in Atlanta. Curry, who still owes $100, said he is confident the city “won’t boot me now.”

Instead of waiting to collect a number of parking tickets, Curry said he now pays them off as he gets them. He already has a few tickets so far this year.

Evanston’s scofflaw program has received attention from cities all over the country, which request copies of the ordinances.

“I get one to two calls a week (about it),” Moran said.