When Public Becomes Private

Alternate Title: He never met a tax he didn’t like

It’s now official. Richard Daley will tax absolutely anything that moves. Or doesn’t move, as the case may be.

I lived in the city for roughly eight years. In that time, I saw city taxes and fees go through the roof — which is probably the biggest reason that I got the hell out and moved to the suburbs last year. In the time I was there:

  • I more than once heard complaints from property owners (I was a renter) complaining of their property taxes increasing by double-digit percentages in a single year.
  • Parking tickets tripled
  • City vehicle sticker fees tripled
  • “Guest Pass” Zone parking stickers quadrupled
  • Parking meter rates… what… tripled??? (In some areas it’s now 25 cents for five minutes — that’s 24 quarters for the max 2 hrs.)
  • They introduced a “litter tax” on any restaurant that serves takeout (on top of soon-to-be 9% sales tax), on the assumption that we all litter, so we should all pay for it.

In addition, I increasingly got nonsensical parking tickets for such things as “Meter Violation” when parked in a non-metered private parking lot. One day they came down my street, hung Street Cleaning (no parking) signs down the street, and then ticketed the cars already parked there! More recently when I visited a city friend after having moving to the ‘burbs, my town-stickered car got a ticket for not having a City sticker! It seems a reasonable guess that police are being pressured to issue as many citations as possible — anything to fill Daley’s coffers. (Let’s not even talk about traffic cameras!)

His newest tax (sorry *ahem* I meant to say “fee”) is on anyone who wants to take pictures in a certain massively overbudget public park. “Cloud Gate”, commonly known as “The Bean”, in Millennium Park, is copyrighted. The City wants you to buy a permit if you want to take a picture of it. According to park officials:

The copyrights for the enhancements in Millennium Park are owned by the artist who created them. As such, anyone reproducing the works, especially for commercial purposes, needs the permission of that artist.

The language there is a bit of feelgood subterfuge, though — the artists do not receive royalties from these permits, the City of Chicago keeps the whole fee.

In other words, you have to pay Daley to take a picture of public art in a public park. If you’re out on the lake, don’t try taking a picture of the skyline — undoubtedly Millennium Park will be smack dab in the middle of your shot.

Hey Dick: if you copyright air, I bet you can charge people for breathing!

(more info is available at the “New (sub)Urbanism” blog, namely here and here.)

Hat Tip: The Blogs of War

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