Much ado about zero

Troubles pop up in Oak Park for Chicagoan with zero license plate

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Tom Feddor became a local celebrity of sorts five years ago after he received nearly 200 undeserved parking tickets from the city of Chicago for his Illinois license plate that is simply the number zero.

The 43-year-old Chicagoan's plight was featured in news outlets such as the Chicago Tribune and MSNBC, prompting quick action from the city of Chicago, which assured him that the tickets would stop.

All was quiet for about three years, when suddenly the unfairly issued parking tickets started again – but this time from the village of Oak Park.

Feddor said he's had zero luck getting help from the village in stemming the flow of the tickets for makes and models of vehicles that he says are not his 2006 Range Rover. Records show that he's received 11 tickets from the village.

His late father, Rev. Kurt Olson, who was an Episcopalian priest, used to take care of the tickets. But since his father's death in October 2013, Feddor says his busy schedule as a downtown realtor leaves him little time to take care of existing tickets.

"I currently have about three or four pending," he said in a telephone interview. "I don't see it stopping. I can't seem to get anyone on the phone who cares."

Feddor said he was told by the village adjudicator's office that to have the tickets removed he needed to fax a copy of the car's registration, vehicle identification number, a copy of the ticket and a picture of the car with the zero plate. He said he did as he was told, the result: a big fat goose egg.

"I did what they told me to do and nothing happened," he said.

"A couple of months later I got a letter saying you missed your court date, and your fine is increased, and you better pay or go to court," he said of the letter, which he said threatened that his license could be revoked.

Oak Park village government spokesman David Powers said there may be no easy fix for Feddor's parking ticket problem, because parking meter attendants are frequently confused by the hundred-plus different types of specialty Illinois license plates used to raise money for different causes.

Powers said that the problem is different from when Feddor received dozens of tickets from the city of Chicago five years ago.

According to Feddor and an article published in the Tribune in 2009, parking meter attendants would type in the numeral zero to test their electronic ticketing equipment, which inadvertently applied the tickets to Feddor's Range Rover.

Oak Park Adjudications Director Robert Anderson said that specialty license plates, which raise money for breast cancer or autism research, for instance, can also have a zero license plate. 

When parking enforcement officers fail to correctly identify the plate as a specialty plate, the ticket is then applied to Feddor's vehicle, he said.

"The problem is the state of Illinois has hundreds of different types of license plates," Powers said, noting that "every one of those plates can choose a zero or (the letter O)."

"Theoretically he could get a ticket from anywhere in Illinois," he said.

David Druker, a spokesman for the Illinois secretary of state's office, confirmed that the new plates have become a headache for law enforcement officers.

He said that specialty license plates are differentiated with a sticker, but with roughly 100 different types of plates in existence, it can become confusing. And new specialty plates are approved by the Illinois General Assembly and more are created every year, Druker said.

"We try to get the information (about the new plates) out to the different police departments," he said.

Druker said that sheriff's associations and state police have generally opposed creation of the specialty plates.

Tickets or not, Feddor said he's not getting rid of his standard issue zero license plate any time soon.

He said the license plate has been in his family for more than 40 years, and he's keeping it in honor of his grandfather, Robert Lamkin.

Feddor said Lamkin, who made a failed run for congress in the early 1970s, went to the state department of motor vehicles and they offered him the number 1 license plate. "He said, 'No. I'd like something lower,'" Feddor said.

"This is the lore," he said. "I can't 100 percent expect this is the truth, but this is the lore."

He said that he's been told by parking court judges to get rid of the plate to end the confusion, but Feddor said he won't do it.

"I don't drive around like I'm king of the world; I just think it's neat," he said.

He said that although he has unfairly received more than 200 tickets since he's had possession of the plates, he's not completely free of wrongdoing. But Feddor said he's no scofflaw.

"I don't mean to come off as Mr. Clean Hands here, but I pay my tickets," he said.

Powers said turnover with parking enforcement officers can lead to mistakes.

"We have to educate the parking enforcement officers to note the type of plate and not just the number," Powers said.


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Reader Comments

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Posted: May 15th, 2014 9:45 AM

I guess thats just the price you pay for having such an sweet vanity plate on your ride! I mean I bet these cops are just jelous that they couldnt get the zero plate first

The Real Bill from Oak Park  

Posted: May 14th, 2014 10:00 PM

Ok, so we all know the state is messed up and issues a zillion different plate types, some that are hard to tell are from Illinois. Maybe it's time for this guys to get a regular non-vanity plate to put on his not very new looking Range Rover. Case solved!

Dan in Oak Park  

Posted: May 14th, 2014 6:04 PM

If this story is accurate and the tickets were wrongly issued, combined with David Powers saying that attendants are frequently confused, then I assume that every ticket issued since Mr. Feddor got his first wrongful ticket will be summarily dismissed, collected fines refunded and VOP will stop issuing tickets until the attendants can be trained and pass a proficiency test at reading license plates.


Posted: May 14th, 2014 5:46 PM

I could be wrong, but I think Mr. Green Jeans is poking fun more at OP's general liberal bent than at Mr. Feddor. At least that's the way I read it.

Olson from Chicago  

Posted: May 14th, 2014 12:38 PM

Mr. Green Jeans. I know Mr. Feddor. On his ecologically-dangerous 2006 car, he has a little over 50,000 miles. That's a little over 5,000 miles a year, when the national average is 12,000. Do YOU drive less than that? If not (and I'd bet you money you do NOT), who's doing more danger to the environment? And I don't see what having a RR has anything to do with the story. Did you actually READ it? Or does reading it tax the environment, too? But if you read it, he's never even BEEN to Oak Park.

Mr. Green Jeans from Oak Park  

Posted: May 14th, 2014 11:28 AM

Mr Feddor is being targeted by OP simply because he drives a Range Rover. People who drive these vehicles need to be educated about the damage they're doing to our planet. His life, and the lives of anyone driving these disgusting vehicles should be made a living hell. We know better than you do, sir. The tickets are just a start. You probably drink 32 ounce sodas while driving too.

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