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24-hour vigil blocks new meters

A protest by South Chicago residents against installation of new parking meters enters its sixth week on Monday, with an around-the-clock vigil now under way.

Led by Centro Communitario Juan Diego, the vigil so far has succeeded in blocking new meters on the 8800 block of South Commercial. The new meters were announced earlier this year, in the wake of the deal privatizating the city’s parking meters.

The 24-hour vigil began after holes were drilled in the sidewalk outside the center on July 19, while supporters were attempting unsucessfully to meet with 10th Ward Ald. John Pope.

Once or twice a day a private contractor’s truck, accompanied by an IDOT vehicle, approaches the block, said Guadelupe Ramirez. Residents on lookout form picket lines around the holes, and the trucks move on, she said.

CCJD isn’t opposed to all parking meters, just new ones on the half-block outside the group’s office, Ramirez said. (Previous meters on the block were taken out two decades ago, she said.)

“Many of our clients are poor,” she said. “They come in for the food pantry, for light and gas assistance [the center also offers help with housing, health, and literacy], and in many cases it can take a long time, sometimes several hours. We have elderly people carrying large boxes of food.”

The center has afterschool and summer programs where parents are expected to volunteer. “They would have to pay the meter for several hours every time they volunteer,” Ramirez said. “It isn’t practical.”

CCJD wasn’t invited to an April meeting of the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce where the new meters were approved, Ramirez said. After the decision was announced, residents collected 1600 signatures against the new meters and staged protests at the offices of 11th Ward Ald. John Pope (on a meter-free street) and the SSCC.

When the chamber said businesses prefered meters in order to increase turnover of parking spots, CCJD surveyed area business owers and found that over 90 percent opposed new meters, voicing worries that shoppers would take their business elsehwere, Ramirez said. After rumors of new parking meters in the nearby East Side neighborhood, the chamber of commerce there passed a resolution opposing more meters, she said.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Parking Meter Campaign has called a protest against parking meter rate hikes at City Hall on Wednesday, July 29 at 11:30 a.m., during the City Council meeting.

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Category: city budget, privatization, Southeast Side

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