Oak Park is a lovely place to live–unless you are unfortunate enough to have no garage to park in, which is the case for Oak Park’s growing population of condominium owner citizens. If you fall into this latter group, beware, because sooner or later, you will fall under the watchful gaze of Oak Park’s parking police. Feel protected? You shouldn’t. Because Oak Park’s parking police are not police at all, but rather a for-profit brigade of troopers with superficial concern for the village’s official parking regulations. Here are some points for consideration:

When jogging this past summer, I repeatedIy noted a certain parking trooper ticketing vehicles between 6:30 and 7 in the morning. Having been an Oak Park resident for many years, I understand overnight parking restrictions to end at 6 a.m. Curious, one morning I went over to the trooper and inquired about the official time window of the parking ban. I also asked her to confirm the actual time that we were speaking (6:45 a.m.). At least the woman had the good sense to appear sheepish when she inquired whether my car was one of the vehicles that she had ticketed. (It was not.)

Or, consider this. In late 2005, my building underwent a major construction project which caused several of us to seek temporary street parking from the village. This process required us to take time off of work to visit village hall and obtain large orange paper permits for our back windows. This process needed to be repeated every 4-6 weeks throughout the duration of the project, which took over 10 months to complete. Over the course of the project, it snowed, which gave the parking “police” just the opportunity they were seeking. They ticketed our cars despite the temp permits–ostensibly because the permits were not visibly posted (under the snow).

Some of us paid these tickets immediately, rather than put in the effort to buck Oak Park’s well-established system. Naturally, I had to take to path of fighting for my rights. After all, I went to the trouble to comply with the village’s requirements to obtain the temporary permits. I expected those permits to be honored. So I wrote to the village asking for redress.

You guessed it, my efforts were ignored. Upon receiving follow-up notices which demanded in-person payment, I again wrote to the village, and again requested redress. As before, they ignored my entreaties. After months of one-way correspondence, with no response other than formletters that continuously upped the fine and demanded more in-person visits, the village ultimately suspended my driver’s license.

Nice place to live, isn’t it?

I could go on to point out how hard it is to have overnight guests, like an ailing mother or a concerned sibling, with the limits placed on calling in vehicles. But I won’t bore you with further details. My point is this: Oak Park is a village that is reaping the benefits of the changing homeownership demographics, yet its parking laws continue to reflect a time when the police were bent on “keeping out an undesirable element” by keeping the streets clear of cars.

Isn’t it time that parking regulations–and the personnel at the Parking Services Office–took a more service-oriented approach to protecting the interests of what is quickly becoming the “average” citizen? (That’s folks with cars to park and no garage to park them in!)

How about hours of service at the Parking Office that don’t require a gal to take a day off of work?

How about parking police who really respect the hours of the parking ban–if indeed we ought to have a parking ban at all!

What do you think? Wouldn’t these make Oak Park a nicer place to live?

Join the discussion on social media!