Anti-dibs campaign is snowballing!

Low incidence of dibs on my street just now. Just one instance - two camp chairs with a board between them. Possibly that’s because parking is relatively plentiful at the moment, maybe seven or eight spots. It’d be interesting to investigate the sociology of dibs, and see what percentage of people claiming spots actually shoveled them out.

Today, my block is pretty good as well–only saw two dibbed spots on the whole block in my slice of the Southwest Side. And one of those spots is the jerk who puts a cone up in front of his house through March or April, because he did 45 minutes of work back in January (I’m only very slightly exaggerating.) One block up, or one block over, it’s a completely different story. Looks like a Swap-o-Rama out there.

Even at its height, though, as I mentioned, I doubt it was even 50% on this particular block.

This whole Chicago snow removal process is quite fascinating. This is my first Chicago winter. When I heard a blizzard was coming, I automatically assumed people would clear their parking space in the morning & maintain the sidewalk right-of-way in front of their residence or business. Every northerner knows that you move snow after the big fall when it is easy to scoop and not iced down. It’s not like you can go anywhere after a blizzard anyway - so you might as well shovel a bit when the shoveling’s good.

I did this with my space. I shoveled because I thought I might be fined by the city for not removing snow from the space. (Silly me.) As I was shoveling I was astounded how people shoveled the minimum to get out of the space & just left the rest to freeze rock hard. WTF? The alarm sounded in my head and I made the decision right then and there that I would NOT be moving my vehicle from this space until a significant snow thaw. (The lack of 4-wheel drive also helped solidify the decision.) It’s the bicycle or public transit - yee haw. And as I began riding the bicycle through the neighborhood I came upon the snow chair dibs phenomenon. The first thing I thought was how bold. The second thing I thought was - gee I need a chair. The third thing I thought was I can’t do that on my affordable apartment building block cuz people need chairs.

I wish I could remember how they did it in Montreal when I lived there. Montreal gets way more snow than Chicago on average and there were no “dibs” there. I vaguely remember than the city snowplows managed to clear the parking lanes, so there was no reason for anybody to call dibs on spaces – the parking spaces along the side of the street were not individually shovelled.

I think I’m in love with my alderman. The e-mail I just received from the ward office:

"Dear 33rd Ward Resident,

Two years ago, I wrote:

"Anyone one has the right to park in any open and otherwise unrestricted curbside parking place on Chicago’s streets. No one has the right to reserve parking by placing any manner of impediment on the public way unless they are permitted by the City of Chicago to do so.

Since the 1930s, many vehicle owners in the nation’s snow-prone cities of the North have dug out their cars, cleared the space and then placed some type of marker in it to discourage anyone from using the parking place they feel they have earned through the sweat of their brow. Woe be it unto anyone that removes the marker and parks his or her vehicle there! Documented damages to transgressing vehicles have run the gamut from scratched paint to slashed tires, broken headlights and smashed windshields … However, a disturbing trend has been observed regarding this practice. It has been reported to our office that many parking markers are being put out prior to snowfalls, during snowfalls of little consequence and remain out long after a particular snowfall has melted. Also, there are many more vehicles per dwelling unit than there were a decade ago and this alarming trend seems to be increasing. Parking spots are scarce enough without this unwarranted and burdensome imposition."

While it was obvious that we had a special circumstance during the blizzard, this is, in most blocks of our 33rd Ward, no longer the case. I am asking every resident in the 33rd Ward to stop this practice and remove every “dibs” marker. I personally observed an entire block very near our offices where every single space was “dibbed” even though there was very little snow left on the pavement. Over the next few days we will experience warmer temperatures and cleansing rains.

I expect to see no dibs markers on the streets by the end of the week. Shortly thereafter, I will ask the community to help remove any that remain.

Please send pictures of any egregious violations along with the location addresses to

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Sincerely yours,

Alderman Richard F. Mell"

Dick Mell is a classic Chicago character.

As I’m beginning to gather; I’ve only lived in the ward for the past year. I may not end up seeing eye to eye with him on everything, but I sure do on this issue! Streets are for the WHOLE public, even if I have a private parking spot and so generally don’t have a dog in this fight.

Mell in many respects is an old-school ward boss - voted with the Vrdolyak 29, stood on his desk in city council and shouted to be recognized in the chaos following Harold Washington’s death, has issues with tamale vendors, etc. On the other hand, he famously said this.

Blissfully, I was in college out of state for most of that insanity (and my family was in Evanston anyway). So this whole 33rd Ward politics thing is a new and educational experience.

Yeah, him and Ed Burke (my alderman, 14th ward) are pretty much the two most powerful alderman on the City Council, definitely coming from the old-school Chicago Machine tradition. (And, just as an aside, in case you don’t know, Dick Mell’s other daughter is Patty Blagojevich.) I should email Ed and see if he’ll follow Dick’s footsteps on this issue.

Dibs won’t work if random pedestrians remove the illegal garbage from the street. Putting aside the illegality of vandalism, it’s not fair to punish people who park in the dibs spot. For all you know they don’t know anything about dibs. Maybe they’ve lived in Chicago all their lives and never agreed to this “system”. All you dibs supporters, did you invite all your neighbors over to discuss these “rules”? Why do a few individuals get to break the littering law and set up the standards?

Dibs is simply an excuse to reserve parking in spots where parking is hard to find on a good day. You don’t find a lot of dibs garbage in the streets where parking isn’t tight in the first place.