Evanston aldermen tonight are scheduled to vote on a measure that would double the minimum fine for many ordinance violations.

The proposed increase, from $10 to $20, would cover all violations that don’t have a specific fine included in the city code.

The general fine increase is expected to generate about $7,000 in new revenue for the city. Other fine increases approved earlier this year are expected to bring in about $52,000 in new revenue — mostly from doubling the minimum penalty for property maintenance violations from $75 to $150 for a first offense.

Information provided aldermen about the proposed fine increase includes lists of many of the offenses handled in the city’s administrative adjudication hearing process —  those with specified fines and the 10 most common offenses to which the general fine rules apply. Here’s a chart summarazing that data:

First on the list are property maintenance violations, followed by all offenses to which the general fine applies that aren’t otherwise enumerated.

That’s followed by 10 violations for which the general fine level applies — including curfew violations, rubbish violations and failure of bicyclists to ride on the right side of the road.

At the bottom of the chart are three infrequent violations that have their own fine provisions — trespass, criminal damage to city property and gambling.


Update 4/25/12 9:40 a.m.:

The aldermen approved the increase in minimum fines Monday night without debate at the full City Council meeting.

At the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting, Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, asked for a report on how frequently such cases are dismissed by city hearing officers. City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz promised to provide a report about that to the aldermen for their June 18 meeting.

The proposal adopted Monday increases fines but doesn’t create any new offenses under the city code.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Doubling minimum fines?

    So, the city of Evanston wishes to _double_ its minimum fines. This is projected to net the city approximately $60,000.  Woo hoo!

    In other words, this increase will make things even more difficult for those suffering financially. And yes, there are Evanston residents who _are_ having a difficult time, financially speaking. Take me, for instance. I am clinging to my part-time job (with no benefits). The prices of everything are going up. Taxes, fines, fees–all are increasing, while wages either remain stagnant or decrease. And then, I don't even want to think about the Evanston folks who have recently lost their jobs and are now unemployed.

    As a resident and taxpayer of the city of Evanston, I wish someone would tell _those things_ to our aldermen. I mean, someone who could cause them to actively listen to the experiences of many residents of our city. Am I just dreaming? Time will tell.

    1. You can tell them.

      === As a resident and taxpayer of the city of Evanston, I wish someone would tell _those things_ to our aldermen. I mean, someone who could cause them to actively listen to the experiences of many residents of our city. Am I just dreaming? ===

      Instead of waiting for someone else to relay your concerns to the City Council — take it upon yourself to do that.  This a democracy — it is up to regular, everyday citizens to share their viewpoints with their elected officials.


  2. I say triple the fines!

    It just slays me when people wine and complain about fines. Fines are meant as punishment for doing something wrong. Get a clue, don’t do the wrong thing. Take care of your lawn, keep your dog on a leash, get your kids in before curfew, don’t speed, don’t run red lights and you won’t have to pay a fine. I support red light cameras and I hope Evanston puts up speed cameras as well.

    If you can’t afford the time, don’t do the crime, it’s just THAT SIMPLE!!!

    1. Fines for Scofflaws

      I agree wholeheartedly with you Gladys, but I'm suspicious of the new definition of 'weed' in tonights city packet.  I hope you take a moment to read my post on the subject.

      Regarding people breaking the law, I am happy to have the fines rain down on them if it saves the honest tax-payer another increase.  And I too welcome red-light and speed cameras… bring them in and lets get some revenue out of the scofflaw drivers and bring back safety to our streets!

  3. New Definition of Weeds = More Fines?

    If you follow the link in Bill's story above to the information packet being presented tonight at Council, the definition of weeds is outlined as follows:  "All premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from weeds or plant growth in excess of eight (8) inches.  All noxious weeds shall be prohibited.  Weeds shall be defined as all grasses, annual, biennial and perennial plants and" (rest was cut off in the packet).

    In our city code, the definition of Weeds is as follows:  "8-6-1: – DEFINITION:  "Weeds", as used in this Chapter, shall include the following: burdock, ragweed (giant), ragweed (common), thistle, cocklebur, jimson, blue vervain, common milk weed, wild carrot, poison ivy, wild mustard, rough pigweed, lambsquarter, wild lettuce, curled dock, smart weeds (all varieties), poison hemlock and wild hemp, and bindweed (all varieties). The term "weed" shall also apply to unmowed or uncultivated grasses (all varieties). "

    By the first definition, the following flowers in my garden are a fineable offense:  Black-Eyed Susan, Purple Cone Flower, Oriental Lillies, tall Snapdragons and Gladiolus.  All of these perennial plants are easily taller than 8 inches.

    Why does tonight's packet contain a different definition for weeds than that which is in our city code?

    1. Keep the weeds!

      I am in favor of the weeds.  Let 'em come in!  The City should fine you for watering your lawn with fresh drinking water (vs. from your rain barrel) and for spaying chemicals to get rid of "weeds".  These are the important issues in today's Evanston.  Instead, they are wasting staff time on fines for long grasses and weeds? We should be working on laws that encourage behaviors that will be important for the future of this planet.  Wasn't Earth Day just yesterday? 

      Save our drinking water…don't use chemicals….and by all means, keep the weeds coming!

  4. Increased fines, not without a warning

    I agree with Elizabeth regarding affordability and reducing the quality of life for ALL in Evanston.

    Evanston is looking for money in ALL the wrong places, bringing Trader Joes into Evanston (for example) is great, but giving them over $1,000,000 for renovations and fixing the parking lot, not so smart.

    Additionally the location that they have chosen will only add to the already traffic cloged Chicago Ave.

    Should Evanston choose to increase fines, I believe that it must be with the caveat that your first offense is a warning and 2nd or 3rd offences have an increased penality.

    These fines are not really being created to deter behavior but to generate income for the bureaucracy it feeds.

    1. Stop gouging Evanston residents

      I understand that we need rules to live in society, that there has to be consequences for violations and that that is in part why we have government.

      But using rules as a business model to generate incom — which is what Evanston is doing — is unacceptable.

    1. Sure. Also fine car drivers

      Sure. Also fine car drivers who roll through stop signs and yap incesantly on their cell phones while driving (never mind an ordinance forbids this).

      1. …and there is no ordinance

        …and there is no ordinance that bans a cyclist from BLOWING through a stop sign like it wasn't even there? 

        1. Yes there is

          An ordinance that bans a cyclist for not stopping at a stop sign. When on the street, bicyles must follow the same rules as cars.

          1. I am guessing there is no

            I am guessing there is no ordinance to that effect, but it is a rule of the road in Illinois. In other places (Idaho, for example), the rule is "stop as yield" for cyclists, whereby all you need to do is slow down as your approach a stop sign, but stop at a red light. Arizona was considering a similar law. In my opinion, it makes sense as most cyclists ride at a speed comparable to a car rolling through a stop sign. There are, of course, people who do not behave like that and I am sure their car driving is equally deficient. As a cyclist (and a car driver), I am deeply annoyed by cyclists riding against traffic, weaving unpredictably in and out of parked cars or blowing red lights. I am also annoyed by drivers who do not signal turns, whose conductors you see talking on the phone, rolling through stop signs, parking in a cycling lane or double parking. We'd all be better off if everyone abided by the rules of the road.

          2. Bikes on sidewalks

            I'd like to see even a minimal fine for the bikers on sidewalks in the downtown area.  So far I see them racing down the side walks and police cars that would have to see them, but do nothing.  Spend five minutes at B-K, either side of Orrington or Sherman from Clark to Church and you will see multiple bikers on the sidewalks—and not the type who you are pretty sure are watching out for people.  Many look like NU student who I assume can read but don't care—if you mention the law well be sure you will hear words I hope they did not learn in their classes but then after the 'sex toys' case you never know.

            Why don't the police act ? Well it maybe  what a policeman said when i asked about the loud noise motorcycles make—and on purpose—-"… it is no use to ticket them,  the judge will just dismiss it."

          3. It is a cost and benefit

            It is a cost and benefit issue. They might be a nuisance in side walks (I get angry at adult cylists riding on the side walk), but where do you want to spend limited police resources? Car drivers speeding, talking on cell phones and not signaling turns, rolling through stop signs, etc are far more dangerous than a college kid on an ill fitting bike (they tend go slow, by the way). Shootings and drug dealing in the city, far more dangerous.

          4. Ordinances are local


            Ordinances are local laws, usually municipal in the US. The Illinois Rules of the Road are a state law, not a local one. That's what I meant when I said there is no ordinance to that effect — it would be redundant (not that redundancy ever prevented local legislation).

          5. As a regular commuting

            As a regular commuting cyclist, I've stopped stopping at stop signs when there are cars at an intersection because the drivers don't observe right of way once they see me coming. It's frustrating for me because the car(s) waiting could easily make a complete stop and then make it through the intersection before I reach it, but they choose to wait at the intersection for me to stop instead.

            An ordinance that bans cyclists from not stopping at stop signs is micromanaging and should be low priority – while it happens a lot, there is considerably less risk to a cyclist "blowing" a stop sign than a driver blowing a stop sign. We move at signficantly lower speeds, we are not in or on several ton machines with motors and windshields and walls. We are small, self-powered, frequently tired thanks to head wind, and unprotected. We have much greater visibility due to the aforementioned lack of walls and the ability to hear everything coming, and we are at much greater risk – unlike a car, if we hit something, we hurt ourselves, so we have a lot of incentive to not impact.

            I'm going to go out on a limb and say that, while cyclists not stopping at stop signs might be annoying to some drivers, it's less of a really a big deal and more a very harmless pet peeve.


        2. Oh my

          Thanks for the laugh. I didn't even realize that a bicycle was capable of "BLOWING" through a stop sign. So what do you call it when people on cell phones do the same thing in their car? Because I see many many more examples of that going on around here.

      2. Fines for Scofflaws

        I'm all for fining anyone who isn't obeying rules of the road – including the ridiculous levels of speeding that happen on all of our artery streets.  Tax-paying Evanston residents do live on these streets and they and their children do deserve a level of protection from this irresponsible behaviour that is by-and-large occuring while people are on their phone.  We don't have the recourse of speed bumps the side-street residents have for protection. 

        The speed limit is never higher than 30 in our town, but people are doing 40 on our streets regularly and residents who complain are constantly told that speeding tickets are thrown out of court when challenged.  How often are tickets challenged?  Even if they are, should tickets being thrown out mean we don't patrol and enforce our laws? 

        Evanston should follow Chicago's example and push for speed zone cameras in our school and park zones.  In the meantime, we need to get some of our police out from behind a desk and onto the streets.  What else did we buy a bunch of motorcycles for?  Certainly not just parades!

  5. Conformity in Ordinances would be a good step

    My only comment is this:  The city should always consider the state or county law first if applicable for mundane & common sense ordinances.  When possible, make the laws congruent- this makes sense and actually can help better protect the city in a lawsuit.  If we are too unique in our ordinances, some may argue the reasonable doctrine compared to what's around us.

    After applying this congruency approach,  we can narrow down the handfull of regulations that are more unique to Evanston and its residents needs.

    The weed ordinance is a good example- whats wrong with the current rule?  Some people choose to have a more natural yard, and it is maintained as such; Although I am not a big fan of the Illinois Prarie Yard, there are plenty around town that we can enjoy and are maintained tirelessly by their proud owners.  An unmaintained yard could be one with just grass or more complex plantings- clearly the neighbors and the city will know the difference.  A busy yard is not an unmaintained yard- its a style choice.

    Other issues- lets see where the state and county stand and determine if Evanston should be more strict or more lax.  Uniformity and continuity leads to hapiness- trust me.  Evanston will not lose its uniqueness. 


  6. The Plant Police Are Coming! The Plant Police Are Coming!

    Just when you thought it was safe to go outside and garden, the plant police come out.

    The proposed new ordinance will raise a fortune. What property owner does not have a dandelion or two taller than 8 inches on his or her property? And what about all those native prairie and ornamental grasses around town just begging to be cited? As for the poor common milkweed, I guess that the monarch butterflies will have to go to Wilmette. It seems like Evanston wants to be eco-friendly when it comes to grocery bags, but with respect to something that actually grows in the soil, not so much.

    Seriously folks, do the people who write these rules think before they publish them? I like nice yards too, but this proposal, as it applies to plants, needs to be consigned to the compost heap. 


    1. I propose a small amendment

      Scofflaws are indeed destroying our fair city with their non-compliant lawns! I propose a modification to the property standards:

      * All lawns will be of a single approved grass species. Any non compliant species must be removed within 30 minutes of notice.

      * All lawns will be of uniform height. Precise measurements will be taken daily to assure compliance. The maximum allowable height is 1.43". The minimum height is 1.39". This will be enforced on a daily basis.

      * Any noticeable difference in height between two properties will result in swift punishment of the violators. The lawns should flow seamlessly from property to property, except where divided by approved and appropriately maintained fences, walls or barriers. 

      * All lawns will be completely free of weeds including clover, dandelions, thistle and any other plants which are physically painful or mentally disturbing to look at. Any signs of dandelion or clover invasion not being dealt with swiftly is grounds for immediate resident incarceration. 

      * All grass should be of uniform color. Color tests performed on lawns using approved and certified calibrated colorimeter devices will show no more than 0.1% deviation from the nearest compliant lawn.

      * All properties must spend a minimum amount, determined by the city and a private entity who need not be named, on chemical lawn treatments, chemical fertilizers and color enhancers. Anyone caught trying to avoid the minimum chemical purchase will be fined and will face no less than 30 days of jail time.

      If anyone won't get on his knees to pull a weed, then let him get on his knees in prison for 30 days. Repeat offenders will be exiled to Death Valley, where they will contemplate life without green lawns for the rest of their short lives.

  7. Hey I know!

    I'm not sure why some people find it acceptable to call such minor things like weeds a "crime". How about the fact that the people telling us we need to pay more for these heinous crimes are the same ones who are about to pay nearly $2000 per person to go to DC to "learn things"? Really? Have they never heard of the "internet" or "conference calls"? You folks who are fond of saying we shouldn't "do the crime" might want to consider why they need more money all the time. Shouldn't it also be a crime to be so wasteful of other peoples money? Can I fine the city when they waste the moey I pay in excessive property taxes?

  8. Welcome to the Nanny City

    Are these fines legally enforceable? I've been fined over $10k by the good property standards nannies. I'd be a complete idiot to pay a single dollar to this stupid city. All because my lawn doesn't look like a perfect bowling green every day of the year. When they complained, I always complied. When they whined, I fixed it. Well, if I'm too busy working and making a living to pull weeds all day, and can't afford to hire a landscaping service to bother the entire neighborhood with a swarm of oil burning two-cycle gas powered blowers blowing all the dust and grass clippings all over the place, then maybe I should be fined a few thousand dollars.

    They can fine you all they want, and in any amount they determine. Don't pay any of these stupid fines. It's not like the money is going to help the idiots with their finances. Mow the lawn every two weeks in the summer. In this climate, you don't need to water it either. 

  9. Fine ’em all $!$!

    This is a great idea, but it needs some teeth to make it effective and objectively enforceable. We should be required to have some type of microchip implanted under our skin that can be tracked via cameras installed all around the City. If ANY infraction occurs, a bill will be mailed to ones residence (and ones picture could go on the City's website as a rule breaker, or for repeat offenses the names could be read over the emergency PA system on the first Tuesday of the month). I have nothing to fear because I don't break laws. Only the criminals can object to this great idea. Go live someplace else if you don’t like all of the rules we have. I mean, there are signs everywhere telling us to do and not to do- there really is no excuse. And you bicyclists should just drive cars and stop causing problems. And you NU students need to start acting like you care-  and really if you also just drove cars instead of walked and biked, us Evanston citizens would not have to see you and the problems you make…

  10. weeds schmeeds

    Many Evanstonians maintain lovely plantings in their front yards and even on the parkway, as do we. I dare anyone to find one instance of the city issuing a fine for having black eyed susans or gladiolas growing on their property. I believe the city is quite capable of telling the difference between an overgrown, ragged, weed-infested property and a well-maintained property, whether grass, garden or even wildflowers and grasses. I'm all in favor of upping fines for property maintenance because with a lot of owners, unkempt vegetation goes hand in hand with eyesores like a failure to pick up trash on the property, junk cars, etc. that bring down the quality of life and property values for everyone.

  11. Anti-cyclist Movement

    Hey Everyone:

    I'm pretty new to cyclying.  Started with a used bike last summer commuting to Chicago for my job and now doing the same to Lake Forest a couple times a week to try to stem the expansion of my waistline.  One thing I never noticed prior to riding a bike is a very large population of bike haters.  I thought the folks on this board who got exercised about bikes were a bit over the top as I never had the same animous to bikers when I was solely commuting by car.  However, you can't help but to run into an angry driver on about every other commute.  Any clue what makes these folks so mad at people riding their bikes would be appreciated?  

    Is it really the whole obeying the rules of the road when a majority of drivers are talking on their cell phones while driving or exceeding the speed limit by 5-10 mph?  Like drivers, most bikers obey most of the rules and try their best to be safe.  Bikers not coming to fulls stops at stop signs is less dangerous than drivers exceeding the posted speed limit by 5-10 mph or taking on their cells phones.  How many people in Chicago died last year after being struck by a car vs. being struck by a bike?  Also, you never hear the bike haters thanking cyclists for taking extra risk for the benefit of cars by riding relatively close to parked cars and curbs so that we can be easily passed.  

    Finally, when you find someone who is crazy negative on bikers, give them a hug.  As a former full time driver with no biker animous, there's clearly big issues at play and those folks need all the help we can give them.

    God bless.

  12. Just do the right thing

    The only time I've ever heard of 'weed' fines is when people are not cutting their grass.

    Really, people, just get real. If you don't maintain your property, if your dog is off leash, etc., etc., etc. Everyone knows that they have to take care of their property and observe common sense rules for the way they live their lives when they live around other people in an urban environment. Quit bashing the city for 'doubling' fines, Obey the rules, you don't have to pay a fine.

    And if you really think that the city is going to establish a 'weed enforcement department', you really aren't paying attention to what is going on. You're just looking for something to bitch about.

  13. 2X Fines

    Now the question is will the minimum fine on the mayor's pot head groupies be doubled to $ 50 or is she going to protect her followers?

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