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Candidate: Make evening parking free

Mayoral candidate Barnaby Dinges says Evanston residents should be able to park free at downtown meters after 5 p.m.

Dinges says "parking enforcement is one of the biggest complaints I hear," Dinges said. "Enforcement is important, but it shouldn’t be excessively punitive and drive people and business out of town."

Under his plan Evanston residents with a valid city sticker on their cars would not have to pay for meter parking after 5 p.m.

Some local business owners, especially restaurateurs, have complained that evening parking enforcement — especially with a two hour maximum limit on the meters — cuts into their dinner business.

Dinges says the city’s parking division "barely pays for itself," adding $258,000 to city revenue beyond its operating expenses.

By contrast, he says, the city takes in nearly $18 million in sales tax revenue, about 20 percent of its general fund budget.

A better business climate, Dinges says, would encourage people to shop more in Evanston — raising the city’s revenue without raising taxes.

He said city taxes have increased 31 percent since 2002, compared to a 17 percent increase in the consumer price index. That, he says, means the cost of Evanston city government has grown at nearly twice the rate of inflation.

Contacted this morning, John Burke, the city’s public works director, said he didn’t know off-hand what the impact on city revenue of Dinges’ proposal would be, but he would try to come up with an estimate.

City parking meters now have to be fed until 9 p.m. in downtown Evanston and until 6 p.m. in most other parts of the city.

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