Handicapped parking rates likely to rise in Berwyn after mayor rescinds veto

Rates for residential handicapped parking in Berwyn are expected to rise now that Mayor Robert Lovero has retracted his plans to veto the increases.

Lovero retracted an April 27 verbal announcement and May 11 written memo, both stating he would veto the increases approved by the outgoing city council.

The mayor said he was sending the ordinance back to committee for further evaluation. But City Clerk Margaret Paul said the ordinance moved to “passed” status when Lovero withdrew his veto. Lovero did not return calls for clarification on whether the new handicapped rates approved April 27 are now in effect.

Lovero’s May 11 memo to the new council urged it to uphold his veto because he found the new rates “punitive and harmful” to one of Berwyn’s most vulnerable communities, “persons with disabilities.”

The ordinance changes were approved by the outgoing city council April 27 and increased the application rates for handicapped parking spaces from $10 to $20, with yearly renewal fees going from $10 to $25. The amended ordinance also establishes a $55 signage fee. Previously, applicants were not charged for signage.

The rate structure initially came up for discussion at the April 13 city council meeting, when 5th Ward Alderwoman Alicia Ruiz recommended that the council increase the fees in Berwyn’s nearly decade-old ordinance regulating “Reservation of Street Parking for Persons with Disabilities.”

Before that ordinance was adopted in 2011, there was little official municipal regulation of street parking for people with disabilities in Berwyn, Paul said. If someone wanted a handicapped space designation in front of their home, the request often went through their alderman, Paul said.

“There were signs put up at the request of aldermen. There were no accurate counts of where they were, who they belonged to,” Paul said. “The clerk’s office was eventually assigned to get an accurate count from a street-by-street survey. On June 14, 2011, the council adopted the ordinance regulating handicapped parking.”

Ruiz told the city council that in November 2019, the public works committee had “voted unanimously for an accessible parking fee schedule change.”

“Some of you may be aware that we do experience abuse in the system because of the low [fees] and no fees,” Ruiz said. “We’re hoping that this can be an option to deter individuals from abusing the system and also alleviating some of the costs to the city for installation and maintenance of signs and such.”

Aldermen Scott Lennon (1st), Anthony Nowak (8th) and Rafael Avila (7th) voted against Ruiz’s April 13 motion to change the fee schedule and send the revised ordinance to the city’s legal department for review.

They were outvoted when Ruiz was joined by Jeanine Reardon (3rd), Jose Ramirez (2nd), Cesar Santoy (5th) and Robert Fejt (4th), who voted to adopt the changes.

When the council next convened April 27, the ordinance was ready for a final vote. After the outgoing council again voted 5-3 in favor of it, Lovero invoked his veto power for the first time since being elected mayor in 2009.

“I will be putting forward a veto on this ordinance at the next meeting,” he told the outgoing council April 27.

Asked by Reardon to explain his rationale for vetoing the vote, Lovero responded: “That’s a stupid question. I’m not going to answer it.”

The mayor did talk about his rationale in his May 11 memo to the incoming council, in which he asked them to uphold his veto.

May 11 marked the final meeting for council members Nowak, Reardon, Ramirez, Santoy and Avila and the first council meeting for Joseph Carmichael (8th), Mary Beth Aranella (7th), Robert Pabon (5th), Richard Leja (3rd) and James Woywood (2nd). They join incumbents Lennon, Ruiz and Fejt on the council.

Lovero’s May 11 memo about the veto laid out his concerns.

“I am hereby returning this ordinance to council without my signature and lodging my veto of said proposed ordinance,” Lovero wrote. “It would appear to me that this ordinance, if passed, would unfairly affect one of the most vulnerable segments of Berwyn residents, persons with disabilities.

“Our priorities seem to be confused when we have a request for a waiver of a yearly SSO fee for outside dining, as well as some council members voting against providing safety improvements to the one swimming pool available in Berwyn,” Lovero wrote, referencing Reardon’s and Ramirez’s April 13 votes against awarding a no-bid contract to rehab Berwyn’s only swimming pool.

“I am requesting council to join me in reconsideration of this ordinance by voting yea for my veto in this matter. An ordinance seeking to increase fees on persons with disabilities, most on fixed incomes, seems punitive and unnecessary,” Lovero wrote.

But after the old council left and the new council was sworn in May 11, Lovero announced he was pulling his veto from the new council’s agenda. Instead, he said, he was sending the ordinance “back to committee” for further evaluation.

Paul said the ordinance moved to “passed” status when Lovero withdrew his veto.