I don’t usually drive to work. I walk, ridding the environment of what little carbon monoxide spits from my 2002 Nissan Quest minivan in the short distance from home to my employer. I save a buck, too, not having to top off the ol’ gas tank as much. But for whatever I have saved by footing it, last week it took only about an hour to lose it, due to my own ignorance and the Village of Oak Park’s rigid constraints on parking tickets even for us locals.

Here we are on Thursday, July 15, the itemized “Honey do” marker-board in the kitchen is reminding me that two of my four daughters must be at basketball camp at 9 a.m. in River Forest, then picked up at 3 p.m. and driven back home where they will change for gymnastics, for which they must be chauffeured to in Forest Park by 4:30 p.m. and picked up at 5:30 p.m.

Obviously, it’s not a walk-to-work day. I drive, park on Pleasant Avenue – which on Thursday wasn’t such a pleasant experience. I check my watch to make sure I move the van within the allotted two hours, something many Wednesday Journal staffers must do frequently. We’re not jumping on the el to go downtown for our jobs. Most of us are local people earning a buck in the very community we reside in.

I’m already in a foul mood. Potty training took a step back the night before with an accident that left the house smelling like a sewer. The Cubs are 9½ games out of first place. It’s hot and sticky and my Levi’s feel plastered to my legs.

I’m to rotate the van at around 11ish. When I trek back down Pleasant, a round metal orange device on the driver’s side tire rim, put there no doubt by a very finicky parking enforcement officer, ends up costing me over $400.

I call the village and talk to a very pleasant lady in the parking department who informs me that I have four unpaid parking tickets. “And what is the allotted amount before you get a boot put on your car by the fine Village of Oak Park?”

I’m told five. “But I have four.”

“But at one time you had five,” is the reply, which utterly makes no sense to me whatsoever. I hold back my inner Mel Gibson.

“So, even though I paid a $30 ticket in May and showed that I’m obviously in the process of paying these last few parking tickets, I’m hit with a $175 boot on top of the outstanding tickets?”


I’m not buying it. I find out later that, within an hour of me getting the boot, a parking enforcement officer had ticketed me for not displaying a village vehicle sticker. I surmise that because it was then my fifth ticket, I got the boot.

Seems exceptionally extreme. It is exceptionally ridiculous.

Vehicle stickers serve no purpose except a villainous, contrived source of income for the village. Don’t throw the safety issue in my face. That’s why we have license plates that are registered with the state. Police do not need sticker numbers on top of license plate numbers. There’s simply no need for a village sticker (and an ugly one at that).

Doesn’t a taxpaying Oak Park resident with only four outstanding parking tickets to his name, who has shown that he is in the process of paying them, get a reprieve before someone slaps a boot on the very minivan that he hardly ever drives and therefore hardly ever parks on the streets of Oak Park?

The same premise applies to, say, an Oak Park cop only giving a driver going 10 miles over the speed limit a warning, simply because the person is an Oak Park resident and has no prior reckless driving record. It’s courteous and respectful. We’re Oak Parkers. We want the same thing. Thanks for the reminder.

What I’m suggesting is, when it comes to minor infractions, the village should take care of its own. I’m not encouraging playing favorites here, but have a policy in place where residents have a little more wiggle room than nonresidents. It would help prevent alienation from one’s own village government, which is mounting. Taking nine years to decide on lights at Oak Park Stadium? Wasting money on all that Ike cap research? Discussing whether or not to try and get landmark status for expressway ramps? Selecting a logo that looks distinctly like a penis? Booting the cars of local residents with only four unpaid parking tickets?

I want to love the village I live in, not be nagged into being annoyed by it.

I think I’ll go take a walk.

• Brad Spencer, who is usually not this cranky, is the sports editor and the real estate editor for Wednesday Journal.

Join the discussion on social media!

Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...