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County: Every vehicle needs a sticker
Unincorporated residents suddenly ticketed

Monday, March 19, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

George Winchell and his west suburban neighbors recently got a few hundred dollars' worth of surprises.
Longtime residents of the Westdale Gardens subdivision in unincorporated Cook County woke up to find tickets on many of their vehicles -- a penalty for not having a county-issued sticker on the windshield.
"I'd never heard of this, not out here," Winchell said. "They brushed the snow off our windshields to see if we had stickers. It's like, wow."
Winchell and others say they've never had stickers, nor even worried much about it. But as the cash-strapped county government searches everywhere for funds, he and others will soon be paying up for not paying attention.
"We've instructed our patrol division to step up enforcement of all county ordinances," said sheriff's spokesman Bill Cunningham. "We're trying to increase revenues to help pay for police officers."
Patrol officers in the unincorporated areas were among the thousands of jobs cut as part of the $3 billion budget County Board members passed last month.
Almost 8,000 residents are also being "actively pursued" for about $57,000 in cigarette taxes they owe and which they originally avoided paying because they bought cigarettes online.
One resident sent in a check for $39.60 -- the exact amount she owed in taxes -- while refusing to pay more for the interest and penalties accruing, county revenue director Barbara Bruno said.
The county wants it.
And while in recent years there were no teeth in the county's enforcement of vehicle stickers in unincorporated areas, that changed last year when the county increased fees and added penalties.
'Real fired up'
Bruno estimates more than 30,000 vehicles need a sticker, which cost $40 for most cars or double that in fines.
County Board President Todd Stroger "is committed to making sure that all of the funds that are due Cook County are recouped, especially in this time of financial crisis," county spokesman Steve Mayberry said.
But Winchell, among others, says he's ready to fight the fine.
"I went and got a sticker, but I didn't know I was supposed to have one, so this fine don't make no sense at all," he said. "My neighbors are real fired up about it.

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