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Why Are Evanston's Parking Ticket Payments Processed In Milwaukee?

My question for the 311 Online Citizen Call Center

Here’s a little experiment.

Joanne Leiman, owner of Flowers Flowers, emailed me over the weekend. She asked if I was aware that Evanston outsources its parking ticket processing.

I’ll admit: I’ve paid many a ticket in my fourteen years here but I’ve never paid attention to the address on my ticket payment envelope.

As Joanne points out, tickets are processed in Milwaukee.

I was born in Milwaukee. I have nothing against Milwaukee. I love the sausages and beer in Milwaukee.

However, I’d like to know how the decision was made to outsource parking ticket processing, as well as when the practice was first instituted.

I went to the City’s website and found the “General Info About Parking Tickets” page.  Once there, I clicked on the link to “send us an email” and was directed to the 311 Online Citizen Support Center. There, I typed in my question then provided my personal info. Once I sent my query, I received a confirmation that my question will be answered within two days. I’ll be waiting for it, and I’ll post it in the comments section of this article when it arrives.

I'm no economist, but I agree that some tasks are better left to those who can accomplish them faster and more efficiently or effectively. Corporations frequently outsource (oftentimes the administrative tasks or call centers) in order to keep the focus on other issues like growing the business and attending to clients. I think the sticky part about our parking ticket processing is that it's our City government outsourcing the work...during a recession.   

What’s your input? Does an outsourced government task (such as parking ticket processing…or recycling) make sense? Does the money saved by contracting with a more efficient outfit balance the revenue lost from local employees buying gas in town? Purchasing breakfast or lunch or dinner in town? Shopping during breaks in town?

If you have any other questions for the City, you can submit them online, anytime. Click here for the link to the 311 Online Citizen Support Center.

mij October 17, 2011 at 01:05 PM
The City Sticker and Pet License Tag Fees are mailed to Carol Stream. WHY? WHAT BANK PROCESSES THE CHECKS?
Kevin O'Connor October 17, 2011 at 03:21 PM
An excellent question, Christine. To expand upon your question with some more questions that should be answered for the never ending tax & fee increases for Evanston taxpayers (both residential & business) by our City Council and their 175 k salaried front man (City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz): 1) Why was a 650k Call Center needed with 12 UNION positions? A simple investment in a better switchboard and 1 more staff member would have solved the problem along with the simple demand that COE staff answer their phones or get back to taxpayers by the end of each day like private businessess. Now COE staff have an unaffordable answering service that allows them 2 days to get back. Also, Wally admits that there was no metrics prior to his 311 system that showed the need for such a patronage boondoggle. At Saturday's budget meeting Wally is going to cut a whopping 5ok from a previously non-existent 650k line item that he & his political masters created needlessly under the cover of alleged public outcry. The public was simply asking the COE to do there jobs. Please Wally & Council members : "Save us from yourselves!" Taxpayers face an approximate 8% COE property tax increase (on top of the huge increase on our tax bills due Nov. 1st), yet the COE continues to spend money (we don't have) for connected developers, business owners and most egregiously on their own salaries. No salary reductions are being looked at even though the COE allegedly is 2 million plus in deficit. Vote 'em out!!!
mij October 17, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Kevin I decided not to vote for my current alderperson a long time ago. Just walk in door ask for money and they write the check.
Christine Wolf October 17, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Sent to my Facebook page from an Evanston resident this morning: "They are processed in Milwaukee because the processing company, Duncan Solutions, is based there. Here's an article from Evanston Now about the initial proposal: http://www.evanstonnow.com/government/city-plans-another-convenience-fee The article gives a pretty good run-down of the "why" behind the move, certainly better than I could try to cram into a Facebook reply box. Later, the City posted a press release about this in July 2008 (also on Evanston Now): http://www.evanstonnow.com/government/city-of-evanston/story/2008/07/28/pay-for-parking-tickets-online"
Christine Wolf October 17, 2011 at 07:32 PM
Received this response via the 311 Online Citizen Support Center less than 24 hours after I sent my query. (Rickey somehow knows I'm married): Good morning Mrs. Wolf, The parking software/hardware that was used prior to approval of outsourcing was antiquated and becoming very expensive to support and maintain. The objective of outsourcing was to have both citation management capabilities and payment functions. These functions included payment processing by mail, telephone or Internet as well as all license plate lookups, noticing and the management of citations that require administrative adjudication. Additionally Duncan provided the City with eighteen new citation issuance devices and with unlimited access to the citation processing software hosted by Duncan allowing the City to eliminate fees associated with maintenance, licensing and other related costs. Duncan also provides a secondary collection system which they have had in place for over 25 years specializing in past due parking citation collection. Duncan Industries have increased our collection rate on parking citations from 78% to over 87% since the system became operational in July.2008. If you have any additional questions please feel free to contact me directly @847.448.8292. Regards, Rickey A. Voss Parking/Revenue Manager
Kevin O'Connor October 17, 2011 at 11:59 PM
Reply to mij: Glad to hear you understand the insidious & never ending financial bankrupting of Evanston, mij. As far as not voting for your current alderperson, my guess is that most if not all of the Evanston Machine candidates will not run again. 2 former aldermen are now comfortably retired as judges, one was appointed, the other was elected with a 40% (out of possible 100% score ) by the legal association groups by canceling out 2 candidates that were rated @ 100%. The problem with the current Council is that the senior aldermen will not take ownership (including Mayor Tisdahl) for how Evanston got to a bankrupt state on their watch and the junior aldermen (who ran on straightening Evanston's fiscal house out) are not willing to really lay the blame on their senior colleagues nor upset the 1 party rule in Evanston. Christine, please ask Mr. Voss why the COE is spending even more money (that we don't have) on an outsouced collection agency in the City's proposed budget. Also, ask Mr. Voss & Wally (our 175k salaried City Manager) why we're spending money on a license plate recognition system with an alleged 2 million plus deficit. Finally, don't be surprised that our tax dollars are going to someone on City staff to continually monitor websites in case of an emergency, such as the truth or real transparency breaking out. One more question Christine to ask the City Council and the City Manager: Why is the COE cutting the Evanston Community channel out of 98k? Less coverage!
Joanne Leiman October 18, 2011 at 03:26 PM
I read the articles, and I still don't see a good reason as to why the City of Evanston chose the company in Milwaukee. Yes, there needed to be a new system, but why one in Milwaukee? We have an incredibly talented group of people at Northwestern University, and I'm certain that they could have developed a similar (or better!) system, saving money, keeping the work here in Evanston. A NU team recently developed the Perk application for Downtown Evanston, for instance - lots of talent right here in our city. Perhaps this needs to be re-visited!
Christine Wolf October 18, 2011 at 05:08 PM
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz shared an email with me yesterday in which he asked the City's Parking/Revenue Manager, Rickey Voss, why the new City stickers couldn't be processed here. The response to Bobkiewicz was that Evanston sends out more than 40,000 applications annually and that the current vendor created the database, helps create the forms, completes the mail handling and collects a % of the revenue associated with the City sticker process. In the email, Voss states, “I believe it is more cost effective this way,” adding that last year, Evanston spent approximately $25,000 for Third Millennium to handle the process. Voss also indicated the Revenue office does not have the staff to assume the operation internally while performing the other tasks associated with the Revenue office and said Evanston would "need to hire additional seasonal and other help to internalize the process which does not include any overtime that would need to be paid to insure that the applications went out and returned.”

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