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Dozens of Chicago fines and fees going up in new year

Come the first of the year, Chicago's city hall will start collecting more for water, hotel stays and weekday downtown parking. In addition, drivers caught drunk, soliciting a prostitute, carrying a gun or playing loud music will also pay more. 

READ THE ORDINANCE: The city's 2012 revenue ordinance spells out the changes. Crossed-out words were deleted this year, and underlined sections were added.

Before aldermen voted unanimously in November to approve a bunch of tax and fee increases, Mayor Rahm Emanuel sold them by talking about what city residents would get in return. For example, he said a doubling of water and sewer fees over four years would help pay for rebuilding "1,000 miles of water line...water main, 750 miles of sewer, 140,000 catch basins."

An extra two dollars for weekday parking at some garages is supposed to go to remodel 'L' stations "and build a new rapid bus transit station, expand bike lines and other efforts to address congestion in the downtown area," Emanuel said.

And a portion of the one percentage point increase in the hotel tax, city budget director Alex Holt said, will go to "advertising and to working with the tourism industry to attract more business to Chicago and to attract more conventions."

While aldermen expressed reservations about the fee increases in Emanuel's budget proposal, you didn't hear them complain about the increased fines for bad behaviors.

For example, Chicagoans caught driving while drunk, in addition to whatever the judge doles out, will face a doubling of the car impound fee, from $1,000 now to $2,000 - plus towing and storage fees. Same goes for carrying a gun or illegal drugs, or soliticiting a prostitute from a vehicle.

And if any of those offenses occur within 500 feet of a park or school, the fine jumps to $3,000.

The costs of some less-villainous offenses will also increase. If you blast music really loud from your car, the penalty will be between $500 and $750, instead of the previous fine of $500. And while the fine for homeowners letting the weeds grow above an average height of 10 inches used to be between $500-$1000 per day, it's now $600-$1,200.

The Emanuel administration estimates these increases and others will bring in close to $15 million extra for the cash-strapped city in 2012, making them a relatively tiny portion of the mayor's plan to close an estimated $636 million budget deficit.

Those taxes, fees and fines - and others - jump on January first.

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