Below is a letter I wrote to the City of Chicago Traffic Bureau to contest a ticket I received after being at an audition in early August.
When I got the ticket, I initially said to my friend, Fred, who had been at an audition with me, "Well, what the eff? 50 bucks down the drain. City living."
He replied, "Hey, fifty bucks is fifty bucks."
Thus the letter below with factual dialogue. I think it won the day!
You have to understand, the city is not giving an inch on anything. "The City that works" - or used to work - is broke and in hallucinagenic, exponential debt through negligence, endemic institutional corruption and irresponsibility.
The city whose motto is "Where's Mine" is finding there is little "mine" to be had anymore. As one writer said, "they used to know how to milk the cow. But now they have killed the cow." It's teats have been shriveled and sucked dry.
So, they are doing anything to make a buck - even deceiving people on the posting of temporary Street-Cleaning signs. I know people who have gone down to court and had live hearings with their photos for parking tickets and been denied.
But in my postal mail letter appeal, I used their own posted online "photo evidence" against them. I rested my case on their own evidence. And, I got an honest adjudicator! Amazing. Startling.
I was thrilled. But then I think of all the other poor suckers mentioned in the letter that got ticketed that day who did not try to fight City Hall. Maybe I will send this to a newspaper columnist just for fun.
So, today, the actors won! Below is the letter.
AUGUST XX, 2010
To: Traffic Ticket Appeals
RE: ############ Date: 8-X-2010
CONTENTION ISSUE: #3 as listed on the envelope accompanying this contestation notice: “#3. The relevant signs prohibiting or restricting parking were missing or obscured.” (PLEASE NOTE THE TERM “RELEVANT SIGNS” IN THE PLURAL as that is part of my contention.)
I was walking back to my car with a friend, Fred, who had an appointment at the same business I had on Washington Street, and I had offered him a ride to Clark and Division, where he works, on my way back up to my house. As we approached the car on Sangamon, this was the dialogue:
Fred: Hey, you got a ticket.
Me: What for?
Fred: Street cleaning.
Fred: Where are the signs?
Me: Yeah, where are the signs?
Then we looked up and down the street and walked part way up and down the street and could not see any signs posted for “Street Cleaning.” Then Fred finally saw one, and only one sign on the entire block, and posted only in the middle of the block. Traditionally signs for “Street Cleaning” are posted from the beginning of the block and down the block facing outward toward the street at specified intervals (most likely spelled out by City Ordinance) so drivers on the street can see and be aware of the signs.
Now get this, the singular sign on Sangamon was facing the sidewalk. 180 degrees from the street. In other words, the sign was displayed backwards and totally opposite to its intended audience. Should not signs posted thusly have read “”Sidewalk Cleaning?” And, oddly, every car parked on the street to the north of me also had tickets on them. Most likely because the lone and only “Street Cleaning” sign incorrectly was posted 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
Also, I reiterate, signs were not numerous enough. (I am sure there is a City ordinance that states how many and how far apart they are to be spaced.) In forty years of driving I have never seen a street sign - meant to be seen by someone driving on the street - posted only for the view of a pedestrian to read on the sidewalk!
I think the picture currently posted on your own website as photo evidence against me (as of the date of this letter) totally corroborates my story. “A picture says a thousand words.” Someone made a mistake in the posting of the lone sign. I had taken other photos on my cell phone, but when I went to the City of Chicago’s own violation website and saw the photo as the City’s “photo evidence” to be in total agreement with what I have stated above, I saw no need to submit any other photographic evidence.
No one from the street could have seen the sign. No driver in good faith would ever know there was a street cleaning. (Evidenced by the number of other vehicles similarly ticketed.) And a pedestrian on the sidewalk would not even be concerned.
I believe I am totally innocent, especially as I still had an hour to go on my meter when we returned to the car.
What a hoot, in media res! I love the line: Should not signs posted thusly have read ”Sidewalk Cleaning?” And you are so right about the cities scrabbling for every dime. My brother-in-law has gotten three tickets in the past few weeks as the city cracks down on minutiae in an attempt to replenish ever-shrinking coffers. They've got to make up the revenue somewhere, somehow...
Anyway, good job! Not having to pay a $50 ticket is like getting royalties on five performances of a 10-minute play!