Dog People vs. Little Bike People. What’s Rahm to do?

John Kass – jskass​@chicagotribune.com

Source: Chicago Tribune

The Rahmfather seeks to soak dog owners, yet bicyclists ride with abandon through the streets of Chicago, with no threat of fine or tax hanging over them. (Jose M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune)

The Rahmfather seeks to soak dog owners, yet bicyclists ride with abandon through the streets of Chicago, with no threat of fine or tax hanging over them. (Jose M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune)

It’s a terrible thing when a tiny mayoral loafer steps into waste.

And by waste, I’m talking dog-doo. But I’m going to try to help Mayor Rahm Emanuel escape from a steaming pile of trouble just as he begins his re-election campaign.

It won’t be easy, now that he’s gone and irritated the Dog People of Chicago. Yet with the help of his loyal allies, the Little Bike People, I think we can save Rahm from himself.

First, the problem: It’s the mayor’s new proposal to “clarify” the city’s existing dog license rules. And in this context, “clarify” means, basically, that dog owners may have to pay huge fines. Under Rahm’s plan, if you’re walking your dog in Chicago and you can’t produce a valid dog license (costing $5 for a sterilized pooch but $50 for an unsterilized pet) for said dog, you may be hit with a ticket ranging from $30 to $200 a day. That’s right, $200 a day.

Dog owners are, of course, outraged.

“I’m for immunization, I’m not for carrying another piece of paper. You don’t even need a piece of paper to vote,” said Dr. Michael Byrnes, the famed podiatrist to the Southwest Side political stars, dog lover and animal shelter supporter. “If your dog’s not bothering anybody, you shouldn’t have to have any piece of paper.

“On the other hand, if your dog went and bit somebody, I believe you should produce that paper in a timely fashion,” Byrnes said. “But as far as carrying a card down the street, I’m opposed to that. It’s almost an overburden for somebody to have to carry that with them.”

Alex Mickley, owner of Active! Chicago Dog Daycare & Boarding in Avondale, is also opposed.

“We have it hard enough trying to get people to have a driver’s license as opposed to now worry about getting licenses to walk a dog,” Mickley said. “That sounds like ‘City Revenue’ to me.”

Mayoral aides — sensitive to the wrath of dog owners — insist the proposal isn’t really some dog tax. It might look like one. But it isn’t, really.

“We are not raising fines. We are not cracking down,” insisted a mayoral spokeswoman.

According to the Rahm spokeswoman, the proposal, which must be approved by the full City Council, is merely about “clarifying the ordinance language — nothing more.”

Naturally, if dog owners or walkers don’t have the license on them, they’ll have to pay big time.

Another problem involves fairness under the law. While the Dog People have to pay, what about the so-called Little Bike People, Rahm’s darlings, in their salmon-colored pants, thick-framed glasses and hipster beards, riding their bicycles to and fro across Chicago?

They’ve been granted miles of bike lanes and other perks, and many brazenly ignore traffic laws. They’re not hassled by police. And they’re definitely not worried about red light cameras that squeeze millions of dollars a year out of car drivers who use the same roads.

Why? Because Rahm wants their votes.

As Dr. Byrnes said, remember that in Chicago, you don’t need to carry papers to vote.

Now bicyclists aren’t required to have papers, or even a bicyclist license. And the cops don’t make a practice of chasing those who ride their bikes through red lights, something you see almost every day. But you need to carry papers if you’re walking a dog on the same street?

That seems almost, what’s the word, unconstitutional?

Some bicycle hooligans are just as foolish as irresponsible dog owners. They roll through red lights. They ride up on the sidewalk and give the finger to little old ladies. They don’t care.

Yet there are others out there, the moderates, the responsible bike people who obey traffic laws. They’re considerate. They don’t give the finger to little old ladies. These are the Good Little Bike People.

And someday I hope to join the Good Little Bike People and purchase a cool bike of my own, and put on spandex shorts and ride like a (responsible) hellion, free and wild down Milwaukee Avenue, singing happily as if I were out on the steppe, the wind in my hair, a falcon at my wrist.

But not until we settle this dog clarification tax business.

Though I was born in Chicago, some of you are probably thinking that since I live in the suburbs, where dogs and bikes are not in conflict, that I shouldn’t stick my big fat nose into city business. But as I don’t live in the city, I’m able to offer a solution without a smidgen of conflict or favoritism. So here goes.

If Rahm wants the Dog People to carry dog registration papers, let the city provide dog collars with waterproof, zippered pouches attached. And on the pouches would be a photo of Rahm’s smiling face and the words, “Dog Clarification (Not a Dog Tax Hike, Really!) Papers: Rahm Emanuel, Mayor.”

But to be fair, he should also apply equal clarification to the bike laws, and mandate that Little Bike People purchase bike licenses and pay the same size fine — up to $200 a day — for not having them.

Of course, that means he’ll have to insist that the Little Bike People first get city licenses, and pay for those, and perhaps license plates, too, and pay for those as well, so they’ll be subject to tickets from his terrible red light cameras.

Dog People vs. Little Bike People? It’s all up to you, mayor. Or you just might let sleeping clarifications lie.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass

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